“Clean” Pain and “Dirty” Pain – Navigating the Sensations in a Yoga Class

The other day someone wrote me a really nice thank you message for the mini musicians’ yoga sessions I’ve been doing inside the Wellbeing for Musicians Facebook group. They said they’ve been really enjoying them but some of the exercises “hurt”. It’s not the first time someone’s brought up pain in relation to practicing yoga so I thought I’d shed some light on the topic.

Navigate

THE HONEST TRUTH

Firstly, let me just put this out there. I’m not a medical professional. I can share my advice as a wellbeing practitioner with you but if you’re struggling with pain when practising yoga or in general, the best thing is to ask your doctor. Now that we’ve got that little disclaimer out of the way, let’s jump straight in.

SOMETHING TO KEEP IN MIND

Here’s something you should know, not all pain necessarily means tissue damage or injury. Sometimes pain can be a defense mechanism of your nervous system to make you stop doing something it perceives as dangerous. For example, if you’re used to sitting on a chair all day and have really tight hamstrings, a forward fold might freak your nervous system out. It’s a movement it doesn’t recognize and its first and most important task is to keep you alive. If that means making you feel pain so that you stop the “dangerous” movement, so be it.  Whatever the reason though, pain is a signal from the body that we should not ignore.

YOU’RE IN CHARGE!

Here’s the truth. Whatever the instructions of a yoga teacher are, you’re completely in charge of the sensations you feel during the practice. Is it too much? Just ease off. Don’t feel anything? Feel free to lean in.

TREAT THE BODY AS A FRIEND

The important thing is you learn to distinguish between pain and intensity. This may be tricky to begin with but trust me, as you progress in your practice, you will get more and more attuned to your body and recognizing these signs will become easier. Approach your practise as a dialog with the body and most importantly, treat it as a friend.

WALKING THE LINE

To help you navigate this line, I’ve put together a few guidelines that may make it easier. We’ll call them “Clean Pain” and “Dirty Pain”. If one or more of the statements in the right column (Dirty Pain) are true, it may be a sign you need to ease off. Ask yourself, what kind of sensation am I experiencing?

Clean-Pain-vs-Dirty-Pain

FINAL WORD

Talking about pain can trigger feelings of anxiety. Take a moment here to take a deep breath through your nose, then breathe a sigh of relief out the mouth on the exhale. Repeat two more times.

WANT SOME HELP?

If you’d like me to walk alongside you as you discover the benefits of yoga, I’m offering online private sessions. Jump on a free no-strings-attached consultation call with me to see if we’re a good fit.

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