This post is part of an occasional series about how yoga influences how I work with clients. I don’t expect you to do yoga. You don’t even have to attempt the pose I’m going to talk about. Ever. In your whole life. The point of this series is that yoga has taught me some interesting things about how to approach other things.
One of the things I really like about yoga is the attitude to pain.
Too often we think pain is something we need to endure. Even something that might be good for us. This is true of physical exercise and of life and work more generally.
If it hurts, come out of the pose
This is the opposite of that general assumption. My teacher even emphasizes that we should come out of the pose at the point where we get that little twinge that we aren’t sure is a pain or not.
In other words, the default position is that it should not hurt.
In an online homeschooling group I’m part of someone had a similar rule: “If anyone’s crying, stop and try something different.” (By anyone she meant either a kid or a mom.)
And yet, so many people find their academic work painful. Painful enough that they are crying. Painful enough that they have diagnosable mental health issues including anxiety and depression.
“come out of the pose” ≠ quit
When my yoga teacher says “come out of the pose”, she is not saying “give up yoga and go do something completely different”. She isn’t even saying “you can never do this”.
The same goes for my homeschooling pals: People crying while you are doing math does not mean “Don’t do math.” It means this particular approach to math isn’t working.
I’m not saying “quit your PhD” or “being a professor isn’t for you”.
What it means to “come out of the pose”
- Pain (even a twinge) is a sign something is wrong
- Stop doing the thing that seems to be causing the pain
- Figure out a way to do this that doesn’t hurt
Sometimes, all you need is a minor adjustment in how you approach the pose and it works, pain free.
Sometimes you need support — a strap, a block, a bolster, a folded blanket.
Sometimes you need to wait until some of your muscles are stronger. You can’t do this pose today but next month (or next year) you will be fine.
The opposite of pain is not ease
There is a difference between pain, even that little twinge, and the feeling of a muscle working.
Doing the pose pain-free might still be hard work. You might still feel that muscle burn when you’ve been holding it for a while. You might still be stiff tomorrow.
You know the difference between work and pain.
If it hurts, come out of the pose
Pain is not inevitable. Pain is a sign that something is wrong.
- Try some adaptations.
- Ask for assistance from someone with more experience.
If you’ve been ignoring the pain, you may have injured yourself.
- Get treatment for the injury (if you are depressed or anxious, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional)
- Don’t do stuff that exacerbates your injury.
- You may have to stop doing this particular pose for a while.
- Alternatives may be available.
- Other poses may help you build the strength you need.
If you need help figuring out what’s causing the pain
The advantage of doing yoga in a class is that there is a teacher to ask when stuff isn’t working.
If you want someone to help you figure out how to make your academic work life less painful, and even turn it into the kind of hard work that leaves you feeling calm and content, I can help.