The End of Suffering and Feeling Pain

Over the past month, I have been enjoying the book Yoga: The Poetry of the Body by Rodney Yee. This book has in-depth information on proper posture, breathing, and images of positions with multiple sequences of various yoga practices such as “relaxation practice”. However, what I found to be most meaningful were his conversations with his student and co-author Nina Zolotow, a yoga instructor and writer. These thought provoking chapters, all with a different topic, are brilliant. Rodney and Nina are extremely authentic with their thoughts, feelings, and relationship to each other and others. It was different than anything I have ever read on yoga and very genuine. I learned so much more than yoga postures; I gained a greater understanding and appreciation of the essence of yoga and its relationship to life.

Each chapter allowed me to look at yoga, and life, differently. A chapter that really left an impression on my mind and affected my soul is called “The End of Suffering”. This chapter was very abstract and complex, and begins with Rodney saying he believes “yoga can end suffering” yet “it cannot end pain, sadness, and difficulty. That’s different from suffering.” As he describes his thoughts on how “you can have sadness and you can have pain, but it doesn’t necessary produce suffering”, I began thinking of my own suffering in the past and the grief I experienced this year. Rodney believes we should feel what we feel rather than suffer from it. His views become very complicated and Nina asks him share concrete examples. What I took from it, is that we need to be present with the pain from moment to moment. Almost often our thoughts bounce back and forth from the past and the future, i.e. I wish I could have.., what will life be like without him/her?…, which Rodney feels prolongs the suffering. By being present in what you are feeling at the moment, though extremely difficult, is liberating.

Thinking of the grief I felt earlier this year after the death of my beloved grandfather, I remember at one moment, my breakdown if you will, just crying and crying with no thoughts of the past or future, I was just in the pain of sadness, being with the pain. It was like nothing I have ever experienced but afterwards I felt lighter, freer. The grief ran its course, and I continue to miss him, but I do not suffer. What I do know is that yoga absolutely helped end my suffering. By being in the moment of yoga, I was present with what was going on during the practice. I found that time was comforting because I was breathing and focusing on poses, and if thoughts of my grandfather arose, then I was letting go of restrictions to block them and allowed them to arise-which was releasing.

Everyone feels pain, feels sadness, and suffers. When we practice yoga we should use it to help us cope as well as be with whatever comes up moment to moment. The pain may not end, but the suffering may. I know yoga has helped me through a lot of life’s’ trials, and for that I am grateful.

“Why can’t you go ahead and feel what you feel instead of suffering from that? I mean literally be liberated by it.” ~Rodney Yee

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