Yoga teaches us to listen to our bodies, and one of the first things we become aware of is pain. The pain of stretching, of burning muscles, the pain of bad alignment and a no-good kind of pain. Whether we describe the former two as pain or simply sensation, is a matter of perception. Some experience stretching as tingling, others as torture. Some people enjoy muscle fatigue, others don’t. But learning to discern between these various facets is paramount in order to ensure a safe and effective practice. Whereas muscular and myofascial release pain is good, burning muscle pain is desirable, any kind of joint pain or shooting, radiating sensations should be avoided.

Hear your body, and listen to it…

Once we have enough awareness to know what’s going on within the body, we really ought to listen to it. Remember that pain is a warning sign. And yoga is not about defying, but collaborating with our bodies. That is why we mustn’t let our competitive spirit get the better of us. A well performed variation is always better than a sloppy advanced asana. Not to mention, it ensures safety and allows you to progress gradually while enjoying the process, which after all is one of yoga’s most important lessons.

Feeling pain during yoga practice?

Here are some guidelines to keep you safe and allow you to immerse yourself in the practice:

  • don’t ignore the pain
  • breathe – breathing is the most important aspect of yoga practice. It helps you stay present and aware of what is going on inside you.
  • extension versus bending – when trying to deepen a pose, always start by extending on the inhale before you release tension and settle into it on the exhale. This will not only improve alignment but also provide security for the joints and spine.
  • take care when coming out of a pose – do not rush or jerk, as it may cause injury.
  • progress gradually – when you have the option of basic and advanced variations, always start with the easier option and move onto the harder version only when you feel comfortable in the basic pose.
  • don’t be too proud to modify – revert to preparatory pose and use blocks or straps whenever needed. Remember that, since relaxing into the asana is crucial to the practice, making it more accessible renders it way more effective.

If despite following the advice above, you still feel the wrong kind of pain in some asanas, look for alternatives. In the next article, I will focus on a few strenuous poses and explain possible modifications that will help you adjust the practice to your own needs. Check: Look After Yourself on the Mat – Modify