10 Day Yoga Journey Day 5: Making Friends With Discomfort

How you deal with acceptable discomfort is a key to your growth.

Why Set Mantra for Each Class?

My mantra for today is “Gratitude.” (BTW, I get my mantra or thing I say in my head when I do light stretching before class. I ask, “What shall it be today?” And like a Magic 8 Ball, a word or phrase floats up to my mind’s eye and I have it. Simple!) Mantra’s put purpose and intention behind the class creating a highly personal aspect of yoga. The more I own my yoga with all my unqiue ways, the more committed I am.

A Sidebar Story

It is easy for me to do "well" in this life by giving say, 90%. But it takes deep, scared-out-of-my-mind courage to give everything I have because there is nothing left over to hedge my bet. Judgement. Tough subject. I am in a "who cares? and "what the hell?" point in my life and it has been a hard lesson indeed. I was a successful business guy who hid behind masks of who I thought I ought to be based on what other people thought. Not being authentic carried me for a long while but in reality, brought me pain and isolation. I had to learn it is not about right or wrong, succes or failure.  Living life well for me is about doing my very best and staying connected with that. The rest will fall into place. What a relief! It took me a long, long time to learn and I remind myself each day to "keep it real." Call it my life mantra!

Whenever I set authentic intention in my life and make the free choice, things flow better.  It is no different in yoga.

The Great Teacher Called Discomfort

Today was gentle and nice: different pace, not so hot, intense or rigorous. Curious to call it "gentle" and have it all about discomfort but there you go. Yoga is full of suprises. To stay fully plugged into the experience of yoga, you must practice acceptance and detachment from the physcial or emotional resistance that inevitably arises.

The slower flow allowed more things to rise within. For example, when I stayed in extended pigeon pose (lying on the floor, one leg crossed in front with chest over it and arms out front while the other leg is pointed straight behind), the searing sensation in my hip fluctuated from intense discomfort that affected my breathing to slow, grudging release and pain dissipation. For what seems like, 15 minutes but is really 4 or 5, I experience multiple changes.  It is highly unusual in this age of creature comforts to be still with something that gnaws at your mind and puts you in a world of desperate hurt. NOTE: There is a clear line between “good” or acceptable discomfort and "bad" or harmful pain.  I never go over the line but it is try to push to my safe limits to break new ground and growth. What I think is a hard wall of “no give” becomes soft and pliable with time, breath and patience. My wise teacher Petra says, “Let go of your discomfort and follow your breath. Do not allow anything to steal your peace. Let go of these feelings of discomfort by choosing to relax.” Life is the same way. To successfully manage resistance and uncomfortable things, I must make like water and flow over and around them, not exert equal or more force.  Doing this only creates more discomfort. I have learned this many, MANY times!


As I settled into my extended pigeon pose, I ebbed and flowed between resistance and surrender. When I did finally, ever so slowly let go, the pain receded a bit and I relaxed some more. There was an “underneath” dimension to the harsh feelings of physical discomfort I hadn’t known!  I have had a break through. I know I can go through more than I think. People always tell me that but until I do it, how do I know?  My yoga today showed me that. The struggles I have on the yoga mat give me tools to use in my life. The more I practice, the more clear this fact becomes. It is a very good day.

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Petra Axlund Stegman May 08, 2012 at 11:25 AM
Awesome blog post, and I do remember this class. I held you in pigeon for I think six minutes, and I know that it can feel like an eternity. =) The key is to let go, not hold on to stress and tension (and this goes for yoga and it goes for life in general). So if something is not doing you any good, don´t hold on to it, just let it go. Hope to see you on the mat soon. Namaste!


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