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Pain and the Practice of Satya

Satya is one of the five Yamas, or ethical disciplines. The Sanskrit word Satya translates to Truth.


The practice of Satya is important in all areas of life, especially in our thoughts and speech to others and to ourselves. In this post I challenge you to consider how you can apply Satya when faced with pain or injury.


This means being honest with yourself with where you are at any given point in time. You may have heard your teacher say something like, "Where you are today is exactly where you're supposed to be."


I think we are all pretty much over the old adage: "No pain, no gain," right?

We know that pushing through discomfort can make us stronger, but pushing through pain can result in disaster/injury, and that sometimes our ego has a hard time distinguishing the two.


I've been getting back into distance running lately, which, in my experience is the ultimate challenge of pushing through discomfort while also being fully aware of when to back off in the presence of pain. My Satya, my truth usually speaks to me when my knees have had enough. I know I must gradually and intentionally progress my mileage so as not to put too much impact on my knees too soon. (This of course also applies to weightlifting and pretty much every other sport). When I start feeling pain in my knees, even if I had intended to go longer, I have to be honest with myself and back off.


With this honesty must also come compassion. This means simply choosing to observe rather than judge. Satya is shifting my perspective from: "This sucks. I can't run. My body is broken," to: "This pain is my body speaking to me about its current limits. It may be my present truth, but it doesn't define my future. I'll still be able to push beyond these limits if I listen now and stay patient with the process of training."


There are times in your yoga practice you will experience discomfort. You might have a pose that immediately comes to mind. There will also likely be times when you creep right up to the edge of pain or even cross into it. It's okay! Satya on the mat means checking in with what your body needs RIGHT NOW and honoring what your body is telling you. Every time you step onto the mat is different, a new opportunity to practice--remember it is always a practice--tuning in with your body and yourself.


Cautious as you may be, injuries still do happen, and they can tremendously change your practice in the short or long term. It can be very humbling, but the sooner you are able to honor the truth of your current limitations or need for rest, the better you can prioritize your healing and recovery.


Asana, the physical postures are just one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga... you have seven more tools available to you even if your physical practice is on hold. Yamas are in fact the first limb.


When you step onto your mat or walk into the gym or lace up your running shoes, what is your current truth? Are you listening to the signals your body is giving you? Are you honest with yourself about what your body needs right now?


I know it can be a struggle for the achievers, especially in sport, but by becoming more observant and less judgmental, we create space for healing and growth.



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