Yoga Pain Playground: On Reckoning Unexpected Emotions.

Via Brooks Hall
on Jul 14, 2010
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Block on foot.

Situations in and around yoga can provide helpful learning points. It’s not always just the practice, but also in the teaching and learning about yoga there can be opportunities for self-acceptance and emotional growth.

I was assisting in a therapeutic yoga class when the quick hand movement of a teacher caused a dense wooden brick to fall on my right big toe. When it happened I said, “Ouch!” The student and teacher both paused to consider me. I quickly covered up with: “I’m okay.” I wanted to free up the moment so that we could get on with the session, but I was hurting! And I was distracted by the emotional sense that I was hiding my hurt. I silently told myself that it really wasn’t such a big deal. The yoga teacher continued the instruction, fulfilling expectations.

My toe was fine, but my emotions were out of kilter! I wondered how I could balance myself without crying all over the student. I didn’t consciously understand why I was so upset, but I knew I needed to do something about it. So before the teacher left I looked into his eyes and said, “That hurt my toe.”

And he said, “I could see that: I’m sorry.”

Somehow this admission that I had been hurt, and that I had seen that I had been heard and acknowledged by the one whom accidently caused my pain, helped me to go forward with clarity. This seemingly small interchange had an enormous effect on my psyche and sense of wellbeing.

When I was looking at the bottled up feelings, and feeling overwhelmed by them, it reminded me of feelings I had had as a kid—and totally out of proportion with what had happened in yoga on that day. This event seemed to bring up a time in my childhood when there was someone in my life who had administered sudden painful punishments in an effort to control my behavior. Of course, as a child I did not wish to be controlled in this crude and brutal way and I often didn’t understand, and couldn’t predict when these strikes were coming. So as a kid I learned to deny pain in an effort to keep my sanity.

That block fell on me as an adult, and at the same time I felt the glaring, raging and confused eyeball of my youth looking for a target, but there I was at yoga, in the house of love. It made me suspicious enough to pause. I was able to consider my seemingly irrational emotional spike from a compassionate viewpoint that enabled me to consider how I might treat myself with kindness, so I could do what I came there to do: assist and help out in a therapeutic yoga class.

So when that inner pain came up in the yoga scenario described above, I was able to clear it by being truthful. And everything got lighter after that. Small interactions can have big healing effects if we can have the clarity to see what might be contributing to any given moment.

* This article, somewhat improved from its original publication, is offered with gratitude from the archives of Yogic Muse *


About Brooks Hall

Brooks Hall is a Yogic Muse from Chicago, Illinois. In this capacity she teaches Yoga, writes about Yoga, and generally enjoys it. You can find her at:


8 Responses to “Yoga Pain Playground: On Reckoning Unexpected Emotions.”

  1. Great lesson, Brooks. I've had the same type of experience many times with Yoga. All the big and little things I used to suppress or avoid (or aggrandize or pump up, for that matter) I can look at squarely in the face without judgment.

    Or, more accurately, when there is judgment, I can watch the judgment more objectively as well. Yoga is about seeing reality just as it is. This has been revolutionary in my inner life.

    Bob Weisenberg

  2. Jay Winston says:

    It can take real skill sometimes to make these connections, and, even then, to make use of that information. I know there are times when someone is rude or nasty to me, and, no matter how minor the incident (like, typically, a stranger making an obnoxious remark on the street) I’ll get angry and stay angry, because it kind of flashes me back to bullying growing up.

    Related to that, I’ve been known to say that the minute a yoga class makes me feel like I’m back in seventh grade gym class, I’m outta there. Based on some of the horror stories I’ve read on yoga blogs, I’ve apparently been really fortunate in my teachers and fellow students in that I’ve never felt that way. This post, though, makes me wonder if I might be able hold back the rage, pause and see what’s really happening…

  3. Holly says:

    Wow. This is a revelation of sorts. I've long tried to understand the behavior of someone close to me who can't get past an illness or pain (and makes it hard for others to get past it, too), no matter how minor. Your thoughts may hold a key. Thanks, Brooks.

  4. Anahita says:

    I loved this post and I definitely relate to the feeling of not necessarily speaking up when someone has done something to hurt me. The irony is that I just continue to hurt myself if I do not have courage enough to voice my hurt. I'm also glad to hear that he acknowledged + apologized [not always the case, really!]

    The house of love, indeed…with space enough to remind us to pause and reflect on the emotions that arise…a practice I seem to continually be attempting to weave into the rest of my life.

    Namaste 🙂

  5. Brooks Hall says:

    Thanks, everybody! Your thoughtful comments are invaluable to me.

    Anahita and Holly: Thank you also for highlighting the importance of the teacher in this scenario. It was a blessing for me that he was able to be present enough for me in my moment of struggle to say, “I’m sorry.” I hope to always be there for the people around me in this way.

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