In my yoga classes I love using the phrase “find comfort in your discomfort”. But what does that really mean? How does one know not to push too far and whether it is a good thing? Finding comfort in your discomfort is a very deep and personal act for each individual. Let’s break this phrase down and do a little inner work on what this means for you.
Everyone has areas in their life that are uncomfortable. I am not just talking about aches and pains in the physical body, but about things we might fear and are uncomfortable with. Perhaps we have a fear of heights, public speaking or even succeeding in life. Whatever the discomfort might be, we should look deep within for the answers. Sometimes it is easy to recognize where it stems from, but most of the time it is a little trickier to discover. Nonetheless, our fears and discomforts stem from some experience in the past, the question is what are we going to do about it today.
My fear of heights developed early on in life. Unsure of when exactly it began, but I feel its been getting worse with time. However, I do not allow that to stop me from doing things. The trapeze here at Extreme Hotel is a great way to practice my discomfort. Every time I build up the courage to do a swing, first I make a decision in my mind to do so. Climbing up the later is the hardest part, where I ask myself why I do this every time. Fully knowing I am safe and secure in my harness, I still feel the discomfort within. But I must say, it does get easier. With every swing I take on the trapeze, I slowly become more comfortable. I learn to trust myself. So the question is, does this help overcome my fear? It might, little by little, but the most important thing here is what I learn from the challenge of intentionally placing myself in my discomfort.
Seth Godin said, “If it scares you it might be a good thing to try.” Why is that? Well for starters, an unknown author said, “Your largest fear carries your greatest growth.” Such powerful words when you think about it. Personal growth usually occurs from uncomfortable situations and not from comfortable ones. So naturally facing your fears and discomforts can teach you many things, when you really pay attention and do it mindfully. Fears and discomforts can block us from living a fulfilled life. Does this mean to go out skydiving if you are afraid of heights to overcome it? Not exactly, but if it’s something you feel you want to do, jump away. Doing small things that make you feel uncomfortable can really help you become stronger and learn about yourself. Staying in your comfort zone doesn’t really allow for growth or change.
So how does this all tie into my phrase in class of “finding your comfort in your discomfort?” Yoga is all about quieting the mind and tapping into that pure consciousness that tends to hide behind the mind and ego. “Yoga is not about touching your toes, it is what you learn on the way down,” as Jigar Gor said. So when I say find your comfort in your discomfort I mean for you to go inwards, into the breath, into the body and make peace with the sensations. To recognize the sensations in your body, without judgement, just as they are. To also listen to your body and what it is telling you. Challenging yourself but also remembering that when you engage in a posture you are true to yourself and not pushing beyond your capabilities. This teaches us about patience and listening to our body. In certain poses we may also have some emotions come up, perhaps thoughts about past experiences. Breathing through these feelings and sensations, and finding comfort in your discomfort through non-judgement. Recognizing what comes up, physically, mentally or emotionally and allowing it to just be as is without putting a label on it. At the end of the day discomforts are only sensations we have given meaning to.
In our lives, we are presented with challenges every day. We can run away and do what we always do, staying in our comfort zone. Or we can embrace the challenge and learn something from it, perhaps even changing our perception about it.