Are You Scared of Discomfort?

Kathy Kruger
Are You Scared of Discomfort?

We’ve all heard the reasons (read excuses) from friends as to why they couldn’t possibly do yoga (perhaps we’ve used a few ourselves when we haven’t felt like practicing asana, meditating, or embodying yogic principles in our daily lives).

I practice hot yoga, with classes that draw from Bikram and Hatha styles along with Vinyasa Flow. I love Yin yoga, and I’m ‘trying’ with my meditation.

Added to the common complaints I hear—‘I’m not flexible enough,’ ‘I don’t think I could lie still so long’—is a general repulsion at the thought of getting so hot and sweaty.

The heat is on.

It’s hot where I live in Australia right now—our summer scorches sometimes top 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) with high humidity. Who even needs a hot yoga room to sweat it out?

Inside, the studio turns tropical (we don’t even bother with the heat on really steamy days, relying on our collective body temperature to lather us in sweat. It’s kinda gross really, and I’m sure some of my friends and family think so.

Ah, but there’s a ‘sweet sweat spot’—that point where you stop noticing the droplets running down your nose and sliding off your slippery skin, and just disappear into your sweaty self, as your hot breath leads your slicked body into movement, sometimes without you even realizing it.

Within discomfort, you discover a place that feels like the most comfortable place in the world.

We have to get out of our comfort zone to find our comfort zone.

Getting out of a comfort zone (say getting up off the couch) to trying to get into a new zone with something you think you’d really love and is beneficial for you (say running, writing, or yoga) is going to feel difficult at first.

You will have to work at it. You might have to get hot and sweaty (as opposed to “hawt and sweaty”). We rarely just slip into good comfort zones, while bad comfort zones are far too easy to slide down into.

Think of being uncomfortable as a prerequisite for being comfortable one day.

Get really uncomfortable, and the rest will come easy.

What asana do you choose to practice at home? Do you practice asana that come easily, or do you go for the harder postures that challenge you? I’m not talking about trying to perfect a handstand for the bragging rights.

I’m talking about working with discomfort when no one is watching, when your psoas muscle screams and no one is listening. If it’s not simply a means to boost asana mastery (and thus ego), then working by yourself in challenging asana helps you get relaxed with discomfort.

Another is just sitting with irrational and all your other kinds of thoughts in meditation.

Only when we are comfortable in our own skins, in the midst of discomfort and regardless of achievement, can we really find that sweet spot (sweaty or not), because it’s only then that we realize everything else is easy.

You can push, or you can surrender.

In a yang practice like Hot yoga, it’s mostly about pushing through discomfort (because after all, that’s what the sweet spot lies—past the point of pushing and noticing). Yin surrender must come after the pushing, or the sweet spot will remain elusive.

In Yin yoga, we just start with surrender—there is still discomfort, and part of it is the fact that we can’t just push through, that we have to trust and let go. For all the heat and sweat, the surrender in Yin yoga sometimes seems harder.

Don’t be scared of discomfort.

In our centrally-heated and air-conditioned lives (my kids hardly know what tap water tastes like, drinking filtered iced water from the icemaker in the fridge all the time), we don’t do discomfort well.

We want instant results in controlled conditions, without the bother of heat, sweat, or pain. We want to ease into things with Beginners’ Classes (not saying that’s a bad idea, but some people never push or surrender beyond that).

Or egos take over and we dive head first into yang competition, which can injure us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

The answer I think is a balance point where we are prepared to push into discomfort, not for the sake of winning or achieving, but for the joy of sweet surrender into that place inside that feels so comfortable. No sweat.