The first thing yoga taught me was that not all pain is good pain.
The second thing yoga taught me is that not all pain is bad pain.
Particularly for someone who’s recently come to realization of the first, I think the second can be a good balancing reminder.
What I mean is this:
There was a time when I was effectively in denial about the harm “bad pain” was doing to my body. By “bad pain,” I mean things like joint pain or pulled muscles from forcing myself too far in a posture or like powering my way through a bad endometriosis day, only to use up all of my stamina reserves in my workout.
Then there was a time when I realized that “bad pain” was, well, bad and therefore important to avoid. Only, because I did not have a way to distinguish good pain from bad pain, I wanted to avoid all pain. Understandable, but not necessarily either reasonable or productive.
For a while there was a time when I wanted to avoid even strong muscle-building pain, the kind one might experience in one’s quads or glutes from holding a warrior or a goddess pose for a long time. Within reason, that type of pain can be non-harmful and can even be helpful. But only if I’m okay with experiencing it long enough for it to actually start to build the muscle or to find stability in a pose or whatever.
Even now, there are some types of opening sensations that I shy away from — specifically, in my shoulders and in my hips. My shoulders are pretty tight, so a little opening is a lot intense for me. And hip openers are just… hip openers. Particularly as a survivor with chronic pelvic pain, that is a lot of physical sensation for me. Even when the physical sensation I’m experiencing is not inherently negative, it can remind me of similar hip or pelvic or low back pain I’ve felt that was bad.
But a lot of that muscle building and muscle releasing pain can be beneficial. It’s a matter of paying attention and not asking myself to deal with more than I can handle.