Monday, August 08, 2016

"No pain, no gain." So true, so wrong.


"No pain, no gain." This is a core sentence in the Ashtanga  yoga community with fatal consequences. Sharath says this sentence sometimes. But when he speaks to a huge audience I'm sure he wants to use sentences that people remember. This sentence is often quoted out of context. It needs correct interpretation.

It's always good not to complicate things unnecessarily, but this sentence is so short that it becomes wrong.

In addition, as mentioned already it leaves too much room for interpretation. Mainly it's interpreted: Work through any pain that you feel, no matter what it is. No pain, no gain. Stick to the series and keep practicing as usual. One day you'll feel better again. Unfortunately this is not true.

I know now that this over-simplified approach to pain can have unwanted consequences till the point that one has to stop practicing at all. Not every pain stops one day from alone. Things can get worse.

Since  my sacroiliac joint was blocked about a year ago already I read a lot. I found a lot of knowledge. Of course injuries can happen also when doing other sportive activities. One can learn a lot from each other if one stays open-minded.
It was wrong to practice as usual. My back pain got so painful that I couldn't sleep anymore, I couldn't sit anymore, forget about a yoga practice. A yogini then wrote me to go to a physio therapist. This finally brought relief and a lot of understanding.

As it's so to the point in the book 'Fat loss happens on Monday: habit based diet & workout hacks' by Josh Hillis with Dan John I refer  to the chapter: Pain and other problems in the workouts: pain versus pain versus pain.

There are different sorts of pain and they require different actions. Pain is a warning from the body. Via pain we get messages that we shouldn't ignore.

1. There is muscle soreness when we work on strength. We feel when the muscles get tired. Only when we feel something the muscles get stronger.
2. Stretching discomfort: It's also wanted. If one relaxes the pain fades away. Then one can go deeper into a pose. The pain can guide us when we are attentive.

Only for these too sorts of discomfort the sentence 'no pain, no gain' might be true.

3. Pain from the joints or other pain are a warning. It's best to work around the pain and to see as fast as possible a physio therapist or a doctor (the more specialized the better) . This sort of pain becomes quickly chronic. After a few weeks of pain one speaks already from chronic pain.

It is not recommended to work through the pain. I repeat it, because it's so important.
Most Ashtanga yoga teacher cannot differentiate between the different sorts of pain, because they don't understand the sentence: no pain, no gain that Sharath says sometimes.
And what to do if someone has serious pain? A yoga teacher is not a doctor, but he/she can recommend to see a doctor........

The consequences of this lack of knowledge can be rather awful. Since almost a year I have this back issues now. I lost many asanas. My practice was so painful that I omitted the practice too often. Perhaps I could have avoided all the months of pain if I saw the physio-therapist much earlier.

Pain doesn't equal pain.

If you want to learn something from this post then it is to differentiate between 3 different sorts of pain. The one when you get stronger, the one that is felt when you stretch and the dangerous one that tells you: Stop, something went wrong. Something is seriously injured. Immediate action is required then. See a physio-therapist, reflect on your practice in general, alter your practice. Perhaps strength training is necessary and so on. To keep going as usual is not recommended.

My summer break is over and I practice again at home. Today I started at 6 am. I sweated and enjoyed my modest practice. There is a long way to go till I can practice again like 3 years ago. This I must accept.

Instead of thinking 'no pain, no gain', I recommend to think: 'Work smarter than harder'. 

I'll write in posts to come what I mean with 'smarter than harder'.

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