Please note that here we discuss pain that is caused by the load on healthy organs and areas of the body. Pain resulting from injury, disease, etc. is a completely separate and big topic, which is the subject of Yoga Therapy.
It is necessary to distinguish between two separate kinds of pain while doing asanas. The ‘right’ pain indicates to us what the weak and hard places of our body are, and this leads us through difficulties to attain power and flexibility. Usually, such pain occurs in the muscles and it grows as you move deeper into the asana and disappears when you reduce the load. This is a controlled discomfort.
- listen carefully to the teacher’s instruction and follow the alignment in each asana.
- move in and out slowly and smoothly.
- painful sensations must be localised in muscles but not in ligaments, tendons, and joints.
- be aware of your limits. Performing the asana, reach it and stop, do not go over this limit. Balance at your boundary and observe as the pain recedes.
- breathe evenly and exhale into problem areas.
- do not identify yourself with the pain. Let it pass away and be dissolved by breathing.
- listen to your intuition, but do not forget that our clever mind can easily pretend to replace it.
A correct pain marks the boundaries of your comfort zone, and practice pushes them broader. The longer and more regularly you practice, the less pain and more pleasure you will experience.
Usually, this kind of pain occurs in the joints, ligaments, and tendons. Such pain is sudden and sharp; and it persists even after you exit the asana.
This means that your body is indicating that something is going wrong and is trying to protect you from injury. If you have felt the wrong pain, come out of the asana. But do not abandon it completely, try again. Perhaps you just didn’t align correctly. Use props since they are invented for this purpose.
Your knees require special attention – pain in the knees is never the ‘right’ kind of pain. In general, this is a weak point among many practitioners, as namely knees rank in first place among injuries in yoga. Basically, knees are injured during premature or improper attempts to sit in the Lotus Position (Padmasana) or variations thereof.
Many beginners like to say, ‘I am not flexible’. But yoga is not a sport. You have come to the hall not for extraordinary achievements, but in order to become better. Your inflexibility will help in this process. This is an instrument to measure your limits, determine the direction of force application, and monitor your progress. Excessive flexibility, which happens to athletes, dancers or just occurs naturally, of course, allows them to perform the most difficult postures easily. But these newcomers have almost always broken alignment in asanas and they require adjustment.
DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)
A few words about pain experienced the day after class. Such a well-known sick-and-tired and even a little pleasant feeling is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. It is caused by a microtrauma occurring in the muscles during exertion. The body responds to damage with pain, and starts recovery and muscle gain. This phenomenon is normal within reasonable limits, and it serves as a kind of indicator that you had a good workout. By the way, the theory that this pain is caused by lactic acid accumulating in the muscles is a myth, as it has been refuted by studies.
Finally, an interesting fact: the American Pain Society conducted a study in 2015, which revealed that yoga practitioners have a higher pain threshold due to having increased the grey matter of the brain.