Pain In The Asana

Asana: pose, posture, seat
Ahimsa: to do no harm

Classical Sun Salutations
Classical Sun Salutations

Since the beginning of my 6-week teaching sabbatical I have also taken an intentional break from my regular asana practice of Sun Salutations and classical poses. This is the longest uninterrupted rest from asana  I have taken in 17 years of practice. Interestingly, one of the results is that I am pain-free in some of my chronic areas of aggravation… specifically in my hamstring attachment area. Basically, that nagging long-suffered ‘pain in my ass’ has evaporated. This state leaves me simultaneously euphoric and frightened. My asana practice has been my savior, foundation, therapist, refuge, friend, entertainment,  release, adventure, and source of livelihood. But apparently it has been the source of a little suffering as well.

Supported 'Head Stand' With 2 Chairs
Supported ‘Head Stand’ With 2 Chairs



For the past month and a half my daily yoga practice has consisted solely of a couple of restorative poses a day, including my longtime fave of hanging upside down between two chairs (see photo). This break from my regular practice of vigorous asana has enlightened me to the fact that it’s time to re-pattern it so that I can maintain  this blissful pain-free state that has happened.


Re-patterning does not necessarily mean taking on a whole new practice or ditching cherished poses and sequences. I miss and love practicing Sun Salutations. I believe in their healing power.  They provide me with focus, concentration, courage, and empowerment like nothing else. And I LOVE TO SWEAT.   I do not want to give them up. What to do???


I’m in the process of breaking down the Sun Salutations.  Essentially I am re-configuring actions, alignment, and habits of practice tailored to and nurturing of MY body’s  story. The intention for practice is ahimsa (causing no harm to myself or others) while still honoring the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Hatha tradition from where the sequence comes. For me this means approaching practice with courageous honesty  and self/body-directed wisdom. It means making changes and proceeding with care.  In every moment we must recognize if we are causing suffering, to ourselves or others and adjust accordingly.


Awareness of a pain in the ass the first step. What we do with that is the interesting next step. I will keep you posted on my progress.

I’d love to hear about your experiences in asana practice. Write me a note in the comments section below. Or let’s chat about it on Facebook or Twitter. Hope to see you soon on a yoga mat!

Peace & Love,
Shameless  Plug….
Upcoming  Sun Salutations Workshop  Saturday June 29,  1-5pm,  at USA Rec Center in Mobile, Alabama.

Early bird rate $60 ends June 15th.

6 Replies to “Pain In The Asana”

  1. I’ve had a regular practice for about ten years, but I have been practicing daily now for about 6 months and I have had (in the six moths or less) the onset of a literal pain in the ass…at the connector site. I’ve blamed it on my day job . . . sitting at a desk. I’ve blamed it on a healed injury to the hamstring connector of the opposite leg. But, when I was being reflective my instinct said otherwise . . .

    Keep us posted as to what you’re learning. I too must need to adjust and wonderful if forward fold is the culprit. I don’t suppose it’ll be quite that easy, eh?

  2. I love this blog entry. Mainly because you are honoring your body and spirit by following your intuition to go on this sabbatical from teaching. I know it was a hard decision and yet it continues to open so many doors of opportunity both professionally and personally for growth and fulfillment. I’m proud of you because it’s hard to make those scary changes. Isn’t sometimes gentle a better route? That is what restorative has taught me. And as a person who was taught that it wasn’t valid unless it was hard, I have to practice being more gentle with myself and others. Allowing the intelligence of the body and of the Universe to provide answers and opportunities is now my yogic practice. But I also need to get on the mat as well -lol.

    Long ago I had a similar pain and went to many folks for treatment to no avail. It wasn’t until I found a massage therapist that started working the muscles/connective tissue in the opposite direction of how I was persistently stretching – which ironically, was causing the pain. I thought by stretching, ie, forward bending a lot to “stretch it out,” it would “release.”
    But basically, it had released too much and needed a rest and encouragement to settle back in to the proper balance and alignment.

  3. melanie when possible why don’t you come & try my gyrogym to hang upside down by your feet & get a little circulation going with active rather than passive inversion. The chairs still compress the spine. GyroGym affords not only full decompression of the entire spine but mobility to allow lateral movement while inverted. Seriously, I live in Fairhope, 406 Grand near Coffee Loft with my GyroGym parked on a trailer on the street. Feel free to stop by or call me.

    Don Prosch

  4. Michelle,
    It sounds like the same location as the chronic pain in my hamstring attachment area. Forward folds require a lot of focus and concentration to not exacerbate the pain.
    Bridge pose is quite therapeutic for me in this area. Keep me posted on how things progress for you. Are you in the Mobile area? We are going to address issues like these in the Sun Salutations workshop on June 29th.
    Peace & Yoga,

  5. This blog comes at exactly the right time in my life, my yoga practice, and my yoga days of being a yoga teacher.

    First, let me say that I believe with every inch of my being and breath that yoga has been part of my saving grace – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Now to the hard things. As a student, I suffer through sun salutations, chataranga, and other poses that make me uncomfortable – or that I just don’t like. Do I have pain? Sometimes.

    Next – as a teacher – I suffer more. Being a yoga teacher requires much concentration, attention to the well-being of every student, and sometimes an aura of constant cheerfulness. Unfortunately, that can result in pain in the “assana.”

    Having just returned from a yoga teaching sabbatical, I will say that I have joy in my heart to be back on my mat with my beloved students. Still, it was a mental and physical break I needed; to step back and “feel” my body and soul. I realize that I move too quickly to ensure safety of my students, sometimes to my detriment. Secondly, I take two parts of my teaching home with me. One, my physical teaching and constant vigilance, searching for ways to become a “better” teacher. Second, I take home the part that is most detrimental to me. I take home emotional judgment of my teaching, mental obsession of my class cues, and wonder – just plain wonder – if my class still “likes” my class and/or me. I can’t seem to separate my yoga teaching from my psyche. I do hurt from teaching and moving in the wrong direction, too quickly, or trying to modify individual poses. Mostly, I hold pain in my heart and mind.

    Wonder. I thought that was supposed to be a good thing, but when it becomes part of judgment and obsession – not so much. That pain shows in parts of my body – my back, my shoulders, my ribs, or even headaches. I have stepped back to look at why I do such things. After all, some teachers teach to the majority of the class. I don’t want to be that teacher, but I do long for the peace after teaching a yoga class. A peace that leaves my mind and body in a state of calm – no stress, no pain, and no judgment that aggravates my body and mind to the point of misery.

    That being said, I love my yoga teaching. I love my students and colleagues. I am blessed, but I think every teacher and practitioner would do well to take a little time out to “assess” the “assana” pain, if any. It shows up in the weakest part of one’s being. Taking that time can sometimes be the gift that allows us to receive all the joy and grace the beautiful practice of yoga has to offer… as a student or a teacher.

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