Yoga Pain

Posted by: on Dec 2, 2013 | 17 Comments
Yoga Pain
image from @lioralshech

What are the five worst words you can ever hear at the beginning of a yoga class?

Lets begin with kapalabhati breathing.

Yes, that’s bad, but the absolute worst is:

Does anyone have any injuries?

Oh no…please don’t ask!!! I can see the excitement on all their faces already. They’re licking their chops. Getting ready to TELL ALL!!!

This may come as a surprise, but most of us come to yoga for our one peaceful hour and a half away from all the complainers we have in our OWN lives. We don’t need to hear a bunch of strangers start trotting out all their problems.

Like most people who aren’t being paid to listen – as in psychiatrist, or personal injury lawyer— I have zero interest in hearing about migraines, bunions, back “things”, tight hamstrings, deviated septums or neck “issues” (does that include wattles?).

The worst was watching my friend, in the midst of chemo for breast cancer, sitting quietly in lotus while the woman on the mat beside her spent ten minutes telling us all that she MIGHT have an ear infection.

I do agree that these people are suffering— perhaps from one or even a combination of conditions— the most obvious being:

Narcissism. Self-centeredness. Exhibitionism. Insecurity. Need for attention.

I mean what else would move anyone to singlehandedly hold up 40 + people from doing what they came to do?

If this were traffic, we’d be honking.

Tip: Keep it to yourself. And if you have come to yoga fresh from the operating room after a kidney transplant and are concerned that you might not be up for flying crow today, find a way to let the teacher know quietly i.e. get there early, send an email beforehand, have your doctor arrange a conference call. In all seriousness, you can almost always approach a teacher before class and let them know if you’re pregnant or have an aggravated Achilles. And if your teacher isn’t available for a minute before class to hear about your injury, you may want to consider finding another teacher.

But please, spare the rest of us your pain. It’s the yogic thing to do.



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  1. Amanda M
    October 2, 2013

    “Gailanne is…the author of the novel “The Other Side of Nice””

    Well I think we can all see that in this article. My word.

  2. AhimsaJ
    October 2, 2013

    We yoga teachers have a responsibility to ask about injuries, both for the safety of the students and for our own liability protection. I never ask students to share with the class — it should be a private conversation. As valid as your complaint is about not wanting to hear about other people’s problems, please don’t use that as an excuse to discourage responsible teaching. If a teacher does ask and expect a public answer, and you don’t want to hear it, practice pratyahara for a few minutes. You’ll live. And, btw, I specialize in teaching yoga for women who have breast cancer. I would absolutely want to know that someone in my class is going through chemo so I can make available any specific necessary modifications.

    • gailanne
      October 3, 2013

      thank you..

      i agree with you that it is essential that students with illness/conditions share them with the teacher so he/she can direct them to the best and safest practice. my point was meant to be that these are serious issues and not for general class discussion–but as you say–ought to be a private discussion.

      my husband went to yoga while he had the port in his chest AND had the cannister taped to his arm. i assured him it just looked like yet another new version of an i-pod–

      his teachers could not have been more supportive…as was the entire student community…yoga was a huge part of his recovery–and we will both always be grateful.

  3. foodforthought
    October 2, 2013

    I have to say, this posting (intentionally?) struck a nerve. I understand the the downside of over-sharing, but as a novice yogi often I’m personally unsure of what may aggravate an existing condition or injury, even something seemingly simple or inane. I agree that a private conversation is likely the best route, but it sounds Gailanne makes the assumption that ANYONE sharing any existing condition publicly is an attention seeker. Maybe there’s a happy medium?

  4. Amber Davies
    October 2, 2013

    Kapalabhati (which is the proper spelling btw) is very beneficial to one’s health and energy and being aware of people’s injuries or limitations is essential in a yoga class so that the teacher who has studied contraindications, can make sure that no one gets hurt. This article is offensive to yogis.

    • gailanne
      October 3, 2013

      thank you for the spelling correction..i think my error unconsciously reflects that i am little intimidated by that part of the practice…you are right–it inevitably does make for more energy AND calm at the same time.
      mainly, however, i wanted to personally apologize for offending you and any other human being, yogi or not, with what i had meant to be a hyperbolic, exaggerated approach to this subject in the hopes that there would be some humor seen here.
      never would i, nor anyone associated with breathe*repeat, intentionally insult or offend someone, and especially not someone who does have real physical issues to navigate…i am keenly aware of the obstacles that health issues present to individuals both on and off the mat and deeply respect those whose energy and effort is toward wellness –for whom even getting to a yoga class takes an extra dose of physical and mental resolve and stamina.
      thank you for speaking–you made me examine the issue even further…gailanne

  5. Joyce Englander
    October 2, 2013

    We often wonder why people don’t leave more comments on Breathe Repeat. It turns out we need a little controversy to spark some dialogue!

    I see so many valid points being made! On the one hand, I agree, it is so important for teachers to know what is going on with their students. On the other hand, I know there are a lot of students who share Gailanne’s perspective that it isn’t always appropriate to take up communal class time with private matters.

    In response to Amber – I personally think it’s important that yoga teachers don’t take on too much responsibility for student’s injuries in a group setting. So many teachers just aren’t actually qualified to take on the responsibility of their students’ injuries. Some might say they shouldn’t be teaching, but there will always be varying levels of teachers. Students need to make sure that they are being responsible, listening to their bodies, seeking medical diagnoses and help when needed, and building a relationship with their yoga teacher as a part of an overall plan towards recovery and wellness. So, I lean more in the middle that most teachers shouldn’t take on too much, nor should they shirk the responsibility all together by committing to learning and furthering their abilities to help.

    So, all-in-all, I agree with foodforthought – that happy mediums are often the place we are seeking to get to, but I’m so happy to see these different opinions being explored today! It’s quite a balance to teach a class that is safe and perhaps even healing while at the same time engaging and soul-elevating to a number of different people.

    Thanks for inciting a little dialogue on the site today Gailanne – even if your opinions aren’t shared by all, they are honest, and shared by some I’m sure.

  6. Edward Safran
    October 4, 2013

    I remember a proverb I learned as a youth, “People count your faults while you keep them waiting.” Wasting someone else’s time may be the epitome of disrespect. To do so at a yoga class seems rather ironic.

  7. sanjay swain
    October 4, 2013

    As an indian for me yoga is peace of mind. Gift of god.

  8. joyce leahy
    October 4, 2013

    Exactly a good rule of thumb for yoga classes. The blog makes me yearn for those peaceful yoga classes. Thank you +Gailanne Grosso

  9. Marika Charalambous
    October 4, 2013

    I’ve recently started practicing yoga (well I was practicing breathing yoga, but not the active one) and I have to say I love it. I have been meditating for years now and yoga is a natural addition to my spiritual practice, one that I intend to do at least 2-3 times a week on a regular basis.

  10. Simona B
    October 4, 2013

    i feel like out of respect for the class, when doing yoga, if you have an injury (depending on the type of injury) you should talk to privately about it with the yoga teacher. Most of the times a one-on-one session might be the best way to acomodate with your situation. Let everyone else enjoy 🙂 Namaste

  11. linda
    October 6, 2013

    valid point!!

  12. Mary-Margaret Walker
    October 7, 2013

    I posted to this article earlier this week but for some reason the comment didn’t stick. My husband and I started yoga for the first time right after my Dad died and about 9 months after my hysterectomy which ended our hopes for having a baby. We were trying everything we could to help my broken heart. I had tears streaming down my face through most of the sessions. The physical and emotional outlet helped me sleep. It’s weird to share my pain in an article talking about not sharing pain. However, we let the instructor know after the first session so she wouldn’t worry but we didn’t talk to anyone else. There were casual hellos and goodbyes but that was it. For me, because of the quiet privacy that I expected out of Yoga I was able to have the experience I needed with the safety of my husband beside me. Others were also in their own space as well. It was a great experience to be in a quite room with all the breathing and sounds of shifting bodies. It felt private and communal at the same time and I needed both.

    • Tracey Toomey McQuade
      October 7, 2013

      Hi Mary-Margaret. Thank you for sharing your story on the site. I’m very sorry for your losses. I love what you wrote, especially this: It was a great experience to be in a quite room with all the breathing and sounds of shifting bodies. It felt private and communal at the same time and I needed both.

      I think a lot of people come to the yoga practice initially because they are suffering. And I think you’re absolutely right – being on your mat can be an incredibly personal experience, but at the same time you are supported by a community of breathing, moving bodies – each one on their own personal journey – each one using the practices to unveil the best possible versions of themselves.

      Sending you love and light… See you on the mat!

  13. Marion
    October 30, 2013

    How about this: as class is setting up, prior to the official start time of class, the instructor, the leader of the day’s practice make it known if anyone has any questions or concerns or issues, to let him/her know at which point said instructor can approach the injured, preganant, narcissist yogi. This is a teachable moment. And I feel, it is the teachers responsibility to set the tone.

  14. Pamela
    July 14, 2014

    Hmmm, it seems to me if the teacher addresses the class publically with a general inquiry regarding injuries (as opposed to asking individually as people arrive and settle in) then your issue should be with the teacher and how she chooses to run her class. The students are responding to the question posed by teacher and are not being inappropraite. If you don’t like the way the teacher handles the issues of injuries then by all means talk to the teacher or just go to another class. No one person is entitled to have a class fit all their needs and preferences; that would be the definition of -> Narcissism. Self-centeredness. Exhibitionism. Insecurity. Need for attention. <-