Becoming Comfortable with Discomfort

Yoga gives us many lessons that are applicable to everyday life. One of the best ones is learning to be comfortable with discomfort.

Americans lead very busy lives, so we crave any comfort we can find. And some very smart (and now very rich) people have figured out how to help us how to make many aspects of our lives easier and more comfortable. We can shop online and have everything delivered to our homes. We can sit in our recliners and let the TV entertain us. We don't even have to move a muscle to change the channel - let Alexa do it! We have smart devices that help us navigate every conceivable obstacle in our busy lives. And this is all good stuff! We need help because we are so busy.

But we have also lost the ability to handle discomfort skillfully. That lack of skill is obvious when you look around and see, despite all of the stuff to make us comfortable, our society is angrier than ever. Road rage is rampant. People get into fights while waiting in line at stores. Someone looks at someone else wrong, and next thing you know, they are yelling at each other or even physically fighting. What is going on here? Is it that we are so used to everything being comfortable, when the slightest discomfort happens, we freak out? Maybe so. And yoga can help with that.

Yoga teacher Ruth Barski tells us: "If you’ve practiced yoga, you know how good you can feel at the end of a practice. Your body feels open, energized and lighter—and so does your mind. If you think about it though, most poses have some level of discomfort associated with them. There’s the ball of tension in your hips that you’re trying to breathe though while in Pigeon pose, or the hamstrings that are screaming at you in a forward bend. The fire in your abdomen as you hold (for what can seem like far too long) Boat pose, or even finding your balance in Tree pose or Warrior Three, can make you feel irked and frustrated.

Yet, in yoga, we purposefully and willingly put ourselves in those uncomfortable positions. We bring ourselves to the edge of discomfort and look for the stillness within. We learn that even though we’re not totally comfortable, we’re still in control (and we can still smile!). We have control over our breath, our movement (adjusting and realigning) and our thoughts. We learn how to stay with it and become comfortable amidst the discomfort.

The same principles apply off the mat. We can use the breath to find a steady rhythm and some relief, as we calm our nervous system. We know that by becoming mindful, we can control our thoughts and our response. And while we might not be able to avoid the offending situation, we can feel strong—even empowered—with the knowledge we’ll actually be okay, even though things feel a little off.

So the next time you’re in an uncomfortable situation, remember your yoga practice. Breathe deeply to give yourself some space in your body and mind, and to release the grip of tension. Fall back on knowing you can withstand it, and that you can do so with grace and ease.

Connect with the inner resilience that you’ve built up through your practice, and rise up to meet the situation with strength. Smile, knowing you don’t need to avoid discomfort anymore, because you’ve got this!"

© 2019 by Grand Canyon Shanti Yoga

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