YOGA AND PAIN
Most of us who have done yoga, or any type of exercise, have had an injury. In fact, most people who have bodies have almost definitely had an injury at some time or another. Pain,
injuries, sickness, and accidents are part of life, and there is almost no avoiding them. If we get injured and take the time to rest and support our healing in the necessary ways, most tissue damage will repair in six to eight weeks (depending on severity, and not including complicated surgery recovery). If we don't give tissue damage time to heal, or we do things that continue to re-injure it, the healing will take longer, or won't happen at all, and our pain becomes
When it comes to our yoga practice, we don't really want to be causing repeated pains or injuries, for a few reasons:
– Life is hard enough as it is, and
causing more pain is silly
– Yoga is supposed to be a healing practice
– Even beyond that, the essential purpose of yoga is the removal of pain
The Sanskrit word for suffering, misery, grief, or distress, is duhkha. The stated aim of Indic philosophies and practices such as Sankhya, Yoga, Vedanta, Buddhism, and others is that a large part of the journey towards Self-knowledge is understanding the root of suffering, and finding ways to live so that we don't create more of it (for example, the practices suggested in the eight limbs or eightfold path). So it follows that with
Yoga practices such as asanas, we don't want to create more pain and suffering. We have to apply effort, we have to work, but if we keep getting hurt or keep causing the same type of pain then either we are doing something wrong, or the person who is teaching us is. Sensation is ok, some soreness is ok, but debilitating pain or repetitive pains are not ok.
The mechanisms of physical pain are very interesting, and as with all things regarding our body, complicated. Recently, I co-authored a paper on pain and yoga with Deepak Chopra, William Bushell, and Ryan Castle. The paper looks at pain as a complex adaptive system, which means a system that has many parts interacting with each other to produce overall effects. For example, an emergent system is one that has behaviors that are part of an
entire system of processes; a wave cannot be separated from the ocean, and a drop of ocean water cannot accurately model ocean tides. Other complex systems include dynamic networks that have interdependent signaling to support holistic functioning, feedback loops, and other mechanisms.
This becomes very interesting in regards
to treating pain with Yoga, especially chronic pain, because Yoga is a multi-modality practice that is based on a philosophy of complex adaptive systems, called the five bodies. These are the layers of our being that are interwoven with each other, contain the seeds of our spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical constitution, are responsive to change, and influence each other depending on our lifestyle habits and mental outlook. The focus on mind-body interactions within Yoga support clarity
of sense perception, which includes pain perception, an awareness of healthy body movements, balance of the nervous system, change in signaling of brain structures related to pain and anticipation of pain.
Though our paper is awaiting publication, you can read Deepak's shortened overview of it
here, in Yoga and the Mystery of Pain.
It's worth noting that the four, primary components of yoga (postures, breathing, relaxation,
and meditation) influence fitness (including physical, nervous system, and emotional), self-regulation (including stress perception), awareness, and spirituality, altogether supporting a holistic approach to life. Yoga practices that make use of all components give the greatest overall benefits. Practices that focus on just one or two give more limited benefits. Practices that include service and philosophical study give even more profound benefits, such as an increase in a sense of one's
purpose in life, and a reduction in self-centered and overly self-critical thinking. Take a look at the practices you currently do, and at the ones that you aren't spending any time or very little time doing. See what happens if you reduce ever so slightly the one you spend almost all of your time on, and include some that you know are beneficial, but don't really work on. Make an experiment for a month or two, and see what happens; see if it makes any shifts in your orientation towards what
practice is, and what it means to you on its deepest levels.
SPECIAL EVENTS –
There is some GREAT stuff coming up.
Yoga and Cardiovascular Health
For three Saturdays starting in November and finishing in December, I'll be hosting a series of online talks and Q&A sessions with renowned heart surgeon Dr. Indranill Basu Ray. Dr. Basu Ray trained at Mass General
Hospital and Harvard as a cardiac electrophysiologist, is a meditation and yoga practitioner, and recently published an amazing book called The Principles and Practice of Yoga in Cardiovascular Medicine. We will discuss a variety of issues related to heart function, health, and disease, along with the seven key Yoga practices that can protect our hearts. Check out the week by week description and sign up here! (By donation).
Deepavali Weekend at the Broome Street
Friday, October 21st, Ganesh Puja, Lakshmi Puja, and performance by ecstatic, Vaishnav devotional singer and poet Parvathy Baul 6:30-9pm
Saturday, October 22nd, Garba! Traditional Hindu dance in celebration of the Goddess! 6pm - all are
welcome to join, this will be fun!
Sunday, October 23rd, classical music concert with Sarodist Manik Khan, son of legendary Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Hindustani guitarist Alec Goldfarb, and tabla maestro Sudhakar Vaidyanathan
Tuesday, October 25th, Deepavali
These events are all free or by donation, and you can sign up and find out more information
here. Please do come and join in - the temple allows for the yoga classes to occur by virtue of being the lease holder and the rent payer - in regards to the yoga classes, we are simply guests at the temple. By showing your support, even just participating in the events, it helps the temple to grow, and insures that we can all remain in the space for a long time!
NEW WEEKLY OFFERINGS
Ashtanga Yoga for
Beginners, Level 1, with Jaytaun, Mondays at 7pm.
Get started with an Ashtanga Yoga practice, or get re-started if you've taken a break, with this gentle, user friendly class taught by Jaytaun. Jaytaun will lead about 45 minutes of postures, followed by deep breathing practices
and relaxation. The level 1 class is a modified approach to the primary series, and goes up to janu shirshasana A.
Meditation with myself and other teachers, every Tuesday at 6:30pm
This class will go through a variety of meditations including silent sitting as well as breath and mantra meditations. We will also practice the Pranic Energizing Techniques of SVYASA. I will be teaching this class through October and November.
Yoga and strength conditioning with Juquille, Thursdays at 7pm
This is a super fun class. A combination of strength conditioning and yoga, to improve cardiovascular health, endurance, stamina, and breath capacity. The strength work (adapted for different levels, body weight only) concludes with a deep relaxation, allowing for a great integration of mind-body benefits. Check this class out!
Coming up in November we'll have some additional classes, which will be posted on the schedule on Oct. 30th. But here's a head's up:
Saturday led primary/intermediate/pranayama
Tuesday pranayama 7am-7:30am
Wednesday one hour asana 6:30am-7:30am
Thursday pranayama 7am-7:30am
Friday led primary straight up 7am-8:30am
Everything from above, plus the Mysore schedule remains unchanged. In-person students are encouraged to attend the led classes and especially the pranayama practices
at least once per week.
From November 9th-19th and for the month of December Paloma Tamayo will be covering classes for me. In November I'll be teaching for Deepak Chopra at his longevity retreat, followed by speaking at the Global Citizen Forum (both in UAE). In December, Jocelyne and I will be in India, where I'll be
speaking at the Integrated Wellness Conference at Kanha, Andra Pradesh, and working with Apollo Hospital in Hyderabad. We will also be doing some other work related to the temple.
See you in class, and thank you!
Eddie and Jocelyne