Comfort in the uncomfortable
Here’s the thing about yoga. Much as we try to embrace the grace and serenity inherent in the asana practice, and we want to envision ourselves moving effortlessly between each extended pose, some days, weeeeeell, some days it’s just not like that.
Some days it’s hard, it’s difficult and it’s uncomfortable. We can end up wrestling with our practice, when what we really want is ease in both mind and body. One of the things I often say in class when I can see struggle on my beautiful students’ faces as they work into a challenging asana is to try to relax and be comfortable with the temporary discomfort. Get comfortable with uncomfortable. Allow it. Welcome it. Embrace it.
It’s one of the wonderful paradoxes in yoga ... the more we struggle against the discomfort of an asana, the harder it becomes! By actively relaxing the mind, the breath and the body and accepting the few seconds of discomfort, leaning into it, that is where we find the magic. And that zone of discomfort is where we can stretch, grow and go further. Often I find these yoga class principles mirrored in life.
When we allow ourselves to accept a moment within discomfort when life throws us a curly one, we can often give ourselves the opportunity to stretch and grow as people in a way we didn’t anticipate. We are so used to making an instant decision to make ourselves feel better in order to avoid experiencing discomfort ... to turn on the TV the second we get in from work to avoid feeling lonely; to eat because we are feeling bored rather than hungry; to grab a drink when we have had a stressful day at work.
I am not saying not to do these things — a glass of pinot in front of TV after a hard day can be a huge pleasure — I am just highlighting the opportunity that mental yoga gives us to PAUSE before we grab the remote or the corkscrew. To be comfortable in that discomfort momentarily, to feel it, and to feel what we really feel. To notice and acknowledge it, rather than try to avoid it.
Getting comfortable with uncomfortable on a temporary basis gives us an opportunity to ask ourselves what do we really need to satisfy us in this moment? It may be that by pausing and choosing to stay momentarily in that initial discomfort we find we are craving connection and that calling Mum will, in fact, satisfy much more than the TV. Or that our body is not actually physically hungry but would actually feel better having a walk to release some tension before we sit down and enjoy cheese and biscuits.
That, given a moment’s reflection, we need to take action and schedule a conversation with our boss about workload rather than drowning that overwhelmed feeling in wine! It’s not necessarily easy. I struggle as much as the next person with reaching for instant comfort after a difficult day or bad news, but I am trying hard to get increasingly comfortable in the pause of discomfort so I can assess what I really feel and try to meet that need.
It’s a real game-changer (and it saves on chocolate/wine and endless Facebook escapism time). I end up with more of what I want in my life, for sure.
Next time you feel an urge to make an instant decision to reach for comfort to escape feeling uncomfortable ask yourself two questions? What feeling am I trying to avoid feeling here? And, how do I really want to feel, and how could I get that? Leaning into discomfort temporarily can be illuminating, and a powerful way to increase your mental and emotional flexibility and resilience.
Louise Thompson is a life coach, author and corporate escapee. Through her online happiness programme Wellbeing Warriors, Louise helps people unlock their happiest and healthiest life. Read Bite articles from Louise or visit louisethompson.com for more.