"But now it doesn't hurt." That's what a student said to me recently after I gave her a block to sit on in her Virasana (Hero's Pose). I sit with Virasana at some point every day, and I always sit on something because otherwise it would hurt.
From where has this idea come, this misconception that the re-union of the breath, mind and body is somehow supposed to be some sort of ancient physical torture? I'm not saying we shouldn't test our boundaries and edges and familiar comfort zones. If nothing else, we should practice that every day. We should make friends with our discomfort (different than pain) to avoid the endless clinging to or craving of our likes and dislikes. But who said anything about beating yourself up to the point of pain?
Every day I roll out my mat, and I challenge myself both in the way I move but also in the way choose not to move. If I am mindful, patient, and present I can move deeper into shapes, and maybe end up somewhere new. If I'm ambitious or goal-driven, and go to the places where I'm in pain - well pain usually leads to injury or, worse, thinking rather than breathing.
Isn't there enough daily pain and suffering? Why not embrace yoga as a way to lessen the pain and suffering, and increase the boundless joy? Can my practice teach me to laugh more and grunt less?
Something tells me I'll be teaching a lot of Virasana for the next chunk of time.
"sthira sukham asanam" our connection to the earth (i.e. the seat or the 'yoga pose') should be steady and joyful. - Sutra II.46