Discomfort in Life and in Yoga

by | Oct 20, 2022 | Yoga Basics | 2 comments

discomfort in life and yoga

Belonging to a culture in which we are encouraged to “check out,” we have all gotten very proficient at existing on auto pilot, treading the proverbial hamster wheel of life with very little wonder or even consciousness. 

We wake up and put on our hat, play our role, believing in the identity our upbringing has defined and provided for us. We feel good about how we are sticking to the script, behaving just like we are expected to behave. We take pride in showing up for a society that rewards our ability to be predictable. 

We adhere to a moralistic code that someone else made up, very rarely expanding outside of that box to discover our own true north, our own essence, our “beingness.” We exist in a somnambulistic state, sleepwalking through this one life, because it’s comfortable, safe, and easy to do so. And people approve of us more when we do. Since we love our comfort, and we love approval, we end up loving our worn neural pathways and our “answers.” We “know,” and it feels good to know. 

Until there is a wake up call. A pattern interrupt, a break in the matrix.

This can only happen when something jars us out of our complacency. Discomfort shows up. Opportunities –  disguised as inconvenience, difficulty, or even pain – arise that force us to wake from our  hypnotic play-acting. When this happens, we get to – if we are lucky – realize we don’t even know who we are or how we are. 

We may decide to travel to a different country, and once there realize we need to exchange currency, learn a new language, and navigate a new culture. The unusual space we put ourselves in now requires presence of mind, curiosity, and a willingness to feel unstable, insecure, and out of sorts in order to survive. 

This survival mode is actually a great time to dig in and find out what we are actually made of. We have a chance to excavate our true potential, as long as we don’t go rushing back into the comforting arms of our habits, our programming, or our need for everything to be as we expect it to be. 

As my friend Samantha said so perfectly, “Whether life does it for you, or you do it for yourself is beside the point. To immerse yourself in opportunities to make new neural connections is exactly how we grow and expand into greater expressions of ourselves.” 

At the heart of any yoga practice, whether it’s meditation, the physical exercise we call Yoga, or simply practicing presence, we find discomfort.

It might be that our hamstrings feel tight in a forward fold, or our breath is irregular or non-existent, or that our thoughts keep intruding on our stillness, or that we catch a glimpse of the continual reel we play internally and don’t much like what we see. This discomfort is our wake up call; it is the perfect opportunity to see something about ourselves in order to be free of what we see. It is the invitation to wake up and smell the coffee; to stop pushing those realizations away, stop using up so much energy to ignore or repress or hide the parts of ourselves we have deemed ugly or dark or bad.

If you’ve ever held a balancing pose for what the teacher says is 3 breaths but in reality is closer to ten breaths, you know of what I speak. The moment we start to send vibes of destruction to the yoga teacher, see what our mind is doing, and feel uncomfortable realizing that “stuff” is in us. We experience multiple layers of discomfort – the pain of holding the pose; the discouragement of not being able to do the pose perfectly; the disbelief, anger, and frustration aimed at the instructor; the humiliation once you realize you’re free to come out of the pose whenever you want, and you are in fact projecting; the guilt for vibing the instructor you love; another moment of embarrassment as you realize you may have an unhealthy attachment to this teacher; the berating and resolving aspect of you that starts up; etc. Continual loop tapes that once witnessed and seen for what they are – reacting the way we are programmed to react – no longer have power over us. 

I highly recommend practicing a willingness to experience getting out of your comfort zone on a regular basis.

Allot time each day to learning a new skill, or sitting with your thoughts without trying to control them and without identifying with them, or attending your least favorite yoga class and staying for the entire practice. Decide to find ways to introduce more presence into your life by changing up routines, traveling, letting someone else drive, etc.

There truly is no growth without growing pains. 

Special thanks to @chocolateandchai for the featured image.

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  1. Michael

    OK I loved learning this word “somnambulistic” and the discomfort I feel from it applying to me. Also love the description of sending daggers at the teacher and the after effects of guilt and shame for doing so… all of this has heightened my awareness. Thank you

  2. Tad

    So spot on Dana. I like living in a foreign country because it stretches me but even then I can easily retreat to a comfort zone. From today I will be more aware of this thanks to you.


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