Sharon has been teaching Physical Education in schools for many years. She recently retired and has turned her learning towards yoga teaching, participating in our 2014 Yoga Teacher Training. In this blog post she shares about learning to listen to pain and seeing it as a friend trying to help.
Most people notice pain as it begins. It is our body talking to us – “Stop what you’re doing!” Pain is trying to help us and support us throughout our lives to keep us safe. Our own personal goodwill ambassador ! Why then do we choose to ignore such a valuable friend? The way out of pain is to attend to it and be sure to acknowledge it through self-awareness. Drugs and other substances are only a temporary solution to blunt or mask the pain. Welcome the pain and know that through its support early on, you will get well again by listening to your body.
Pain’s arch-enemy is the ego. Your ego is what you think you are. Our ego, we listen to all the time. It’s what makes us do really irrational things sometimes . . . often even things that hurt us. We really should change things around . . . Listen less to our ego and more to our pain. I think in the long run we probably would be much happier.
Everyone experiences pain. I know I do. A lot of my pain early on in life was emotional and psychological. As I grew and began to experience sport, I began to get used to more physical pain. Then I experienced and learn to manage increased amounts of physical pain at university as an oarswoman. Man . . . does rowing ever hurt ! What I’m trying to say here is we start to become somewhat immune to pain. We turn our backs on it, we tolerate it . . . we “unfriend” it.
Fast forward the last 7 years. Inhale . . .”click” . . . exhale . . . “click”. For years now I have been listening to this ever frightening sound as I lower down from plank pose in my yoga classes. Sometimes my pain would not be immediate. Then after class I realize that my shoulder hurts. This is probably all too familiar to many people involved in physical activity. We are so engrossed in doing a good job that we forget to listen to our body speaking.
After many years of off and on pain in my shoulder joint, I now know what is causing it and am making strong efforts to avoid any further damage. Once we acknowledge pain, we can then explore why it’s happening.
As for myself, I have finally discovered what has been giving my shoulder some problems. I am listening to the pain and am making some changes to the way I do things. My pain stemmed from lowering down to the floor from plank pose. When my shoulders went below my elbows, it caused excessive pressure in the shoulder joint. Now, before lowering myself down to the floor, I take a slow deep inhale and think about drawing the shoulder blades (scapula) in towards my spine. As Toronto teacher Jesse Enright has told us, “Pull the earth towards you!”
As I take another step forward in my journey with yoga, I also want to acknowledge the wonderful teachers at Queen Street Yoga for their vast amount of knowledge and guidance to keep myself and everyone at the studio safe and moving forward in their practice.
A few things to remember as you participate in physical activity . . .
1. Always practice proper alignment. (If you don’t know what the proper alignment is, ask!)
2. Build balanced strength around the joint to create stability.
3. If it hurts . . . STOP doing it! Pay attention to your pain and work things out between the two of you.
4. When pain speaks to you . . . listen. Talk back to the pain and say “I will take care of you my friend”.
5. Discover the wonderful world of resources. Some articles that I referred to (alongside consulting with my teachers) were:
- Understanding and Preventing Shoulder Injuries
- Healing Your Neck and Shoulder Pain
- When Yoga Harms Instead of Heals
- Wear and Care: Decrease Shoulder Pain and Build Strength
- Common Yoga Injuries — How to Prevent and Treat Them
Sharon Zintel has been practicing yoga for 15 years while raising her three daughters and teaching. She is currently enjoying her role as a Family Math Night Consultant. As her yoga journey continues she hopes to be teaching yoga to all ages, from young children to older adults.