Pain and Power


“Pain is temporary. Freedom is permanent.” BKS Iyengar

This week’s reading begins with a discussion on PAIN. This, I feel, is an important topic that I hope we all can contemplate a bit further. I will say that practicing and teaching Iyengar Yoga has given me more knowledge about pain and how individuals react to it. There are those who want to avoid it all costs and those who revel in it as a sign they are doing something, and then there are those at every level in between.

It is important to acknowledge that life in a body brings pain – physical AND emotional. No one is getting through this life without it. And I think that it is a very important job of yoga to help us understand how to deal with pain and ultimately work with it and through it.

“Asana practice is an opportunity to look at obstacles in practice and life and discover how we can cope with them.” BKS Iyengar

I cannot tell you how many new students come to yoga as a possible avoidance of pain. They are surprised at the work involved and when sore actually question continuing with class. But yoga practice is meant to be an experience of all aspects of Self, not just the blissful, and not an avoidance of life. BKS Iyengar in this section acknowledges that “When you begin yoga, the unrecognized pains come to the surface…and…There are only two ways to confront pain: to live with the pain forever or to work with the pain and see if you can eradicate it.”

To ignore pain or try to avoid it at all costs builds barriers to life and experience and expansion! “To perform asana with ease and comfort and without any stress or exertion leaves a practitioner living within the limits of his or her mind, with the inevitable fear, attachment, and pettiness…Without certain stress, the true asana is not experienced, and the mind will remain in its limitations and will not move beyond its existing frontiers.”

Which brings us to understanding what the “frontier” of yoga might be. I will skip for a moment to the start of the third chapter where BKS Iyengar begins to talk about PRANA, as it is the understanding of this energy that will allow us to connect a bit better to some of the concepts at the end of the second chapter.

“Prana is our link to infinite intelligence. What a shame it is that we have such access and ignore its use and development. We are like someone with a vast fortune locked in a numbered bank account who forgets the number and so must scrape by in poverty.” BKS Iyengar

Prana is the energy of life that runs through and connects everything. It is our intelligence, our consciousness, awareness and vitality. It is “immanent and transcendent”. And, it is what we are truly dealing with in our yoga practice, not just our physical body and space. This prana is the ultimate of self expression and becomes manifest in the infinite possibility and potential of every single one of us.

This idea of prana is helpful because as we look at the last sections of Chapter 2, BKS Iyengar describes some of the limitations we place on our practice. We have the power of prana that is all expansive within us, so why do we settle for less in our experience of yoga? To say “I can’t” or “That is enough” or “This is fine” we limit our awareness and stop the flow of prana to new and amazing frontiers! To only see ourselves as the body we live in is stealing from ourselves and limiting our experience of life itself!

So, challenge yourself to acknowledge and experience the pains that come, and remember the power within you that exists to push you beyond your known limitations!

(Next reading is from Chapter 3 “Breath and Pranayama” through “Greed”)

Jennie Williford CIYT

Jennie Williford (CIYT Level 3) is a transplant to LaCrosse via Montana, Illinois, and originally Texas. Throughout her life moves and 5 trips to India, Jennie has acquired a well-rounded and multi-faceted approach to Iyengar Yoga since her start in 1998. Jennie loves the experimental and explorative nature of yoga in accessing deeper knowledge of the Self on every level. The practice of yoga can be intense and introspective, however as practitioners we can be light-hearted and open-minded in our discipline. Jennie is intrigued by the philosophy of yoga and hopes to share this depth of subject while teaching the physical and mental benefits that come from the practice of posture.