In the Yoga Sutras, Patajali explains that the underlying obstacle to our progress in yoga is Avidya – Ignorance. There are many different forms of ignorance. One of them being the ignorance that leads to mistaking pleasure and pain. What we consider pleasure may very well be causing pain and vice versa.
For instance, you choose to eat a beautiful, big, red apple. It’s crispy, it’s juicy, it’s delicious! You’re proud. You’ve done something healthy for yourself. You’ve chosen fruit over Twizzlers as your snack. However, your apple is not organic, it has wax on it, was produced with herbicides and pesticides from a factory in China. It’s actually causing your body harm. The pleasure you received eating it veils the inherent pain during assimilation. Because we may be ignorant of food production and lack the sensitivity to recognize how toxins feel in our body, we experience suffering.
Conversely, you come to my yoga class and complain about how painful Gomukhasana is. How much it hurts your shoulders, how you dread doing it. What you experience as pain is really the body freeing tension, releasing old energy. Underneath the surface sensation of pain, the body is feeling pleasure, joy and new sense of mobility in the shoulders. In our ignorance, we label bliss as pain.
The practice of yoga cultivates discernment, hopefully, if that is the intention (we can just as easily cultivate more ignorance while doing yoga if there is no clarity behind our actions). We learn to distinguish what is real from unreal, Self from non-Self, permanent from impermanent and pleasure from pain. The surface senses can be deceptive and to follow them is to be guided by five wild horses without a charioteer. They will lead you astray. The work in yoga is to tame the senses and listen for inner truth. Then, act on that truth.
Today’s take away: eat local, organic food, know your farmers, never, ever complain and do more yoga (Purna Yoga that is).
Gomukhasana – Cow Face Pose
1. Move the upper arm shoulder blade away from the spine, up and into the body.
2. Move the bottom arm shoulder blade towards the spine, down and into the body.
3. Lift the pit of the abdomen and sternum
4. Exhale into the resistance, smile and then change sides
Practice with intelligence, practice often
**If your hands do not clasp, use a belt. The tension between the two arms is what helps create the opening. Props are not a crutch. Performance vs. efficacy.