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I'm an NYC-based director, and this is an outlet for my various musings about theater and about the city of New York. Sometimes the subjects run together, sometimes they are entirely separate, but between the two they comprise the most fitful, most intense, most trying love affair of my few years. They fill my head, my heart, my mouth every hour of every day; they could fill a book.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Yoga Lessons

During a recent yoga class, whilst in half-pigeon, our teacher advised us to back off the position if we felt a great deal of pain.

"Now, there's a difference between pain and tenderness," he clarified. "Tenderness we deal with - pain we don't." Oh, I thought, a tad let down. It's not that it wasn't good advice - of course it was - it was just that in this class (and possibly in the yoga world at large) there is a lot of emphasis in the connection between how we respond to our yoga practice, and how we respond to life in general. You know, calm, focus, presence of mind, even in face of painful experiences - that sort of thing. An ability to lean into the pain and accept it, rather than pushing against it.

So it was with a little disappointment that I acknowledged our instructor's advice; while very practical and appropriate for the yoga practice itself, it didn't seem to translate well to the yoga-as-life metaphor. To say that we "don't deal with pain" - isn't that completely backwards? Isn't the learning to deal with pain rather than backing away from it exactly the point?

But then he continued: "Tenderness is normal - natural. We want tenderness. But pain, pain is not natural. Pain is your body's way of saying Stop doing this, you're hurting me."


Maybe it does translate after all. Perhaps there is a wisdom in knowing the difference between the tenderness that is simply the business living, the natural result our spirits stretching and tensing in the world, and real pain - pain that shouldn't be. And further wisdom in understanding that that pain is not an unbearable burden, but rather a way of communicating to ourselves, stop doing this, you're hurting me.

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