In the past two years I have taken a deep dive into stretching. At one point I was really into lifting weights and ran into some trouble with recurring injury. There came a point I realized that I simply am not mobile enough to be doing what I’m doing. This resulted in an emotional setting down of Sir Ego, and a journey into stretching and increasing range of motion. I’ve learned a lot of the ins and outs, and many different methods of stretching. This niche world is very interesting, as each side has a very passionate understanding of their own method and fires shots at other methods. But methods are methods for a reason: they have worked in many cases.
Underlying all the differences, there is one common ground of any flexibility work… You are going to experience high levels of discomfort. For me this can feel like pinching, running into blockage, and sometimes tearing.
No matter the method, it is likely that you will be in these positions for a good amount of time. How do you deal with this extreme discomfort? Does it get easier over time?
Meditation has been my grandest ally with my flexibility work. Here’s why.
Meditation is the process of observing thoughts, emotions, and feelings. Through the process of observation you find that thoughts, emotions, and feelings come and go like the wind. And it may seem strange, but you come to understand that these sensations are not as strong and not as significantly YOU as you thought they were. For example, as you are meditating you have a strong urge to eat the brownies you have stashed in the kitchen. You are almost pulled from your place the urge is so powerful. You decide otherwise, you sit, and you observe the strong urge. 5-10 seconds later, the urge and thought is gone. Vanished. You’re on to the next neuroses already.
You may start to realize that if you don’t satisfy your impulses everything is fine, and honestly, better. The more meditation is practiced, the more you will be able to step outside of these thoughts, emotions, and feelings and observe them.
When stretching, the feeling is discomfort or maybe even identified as pain. After practicing months/years of meditation, going into the discomfort is more interesting than uncomfortable (still not easy). Instead of crying out in pain, you breathe. Instead of coming out as soon as you go in to the stretch, you stay with it. You are observing. What does this feel like? Where am I feeling sensation?
Because you’ve disciplined yourself on not satisfying urges immediately and watching them instead, you are able to stay in the stretch and observe this feeling as well.
You understand that, just like the brownie thought, this is also just a feeling. It is not death knocking at the door (which stretching can feel like sometimes). There is a separation between you and the feeling.
A space between.
In that space lies the response to the feeling. Do you breathe with it, observe the discomfort, and understand that the feeling will end at some point? Or do you quit breathing, cower, and fall out of the stretch?
It does not get easier, the discomfort does not go away. You simply alter your relationship with it.
Meditation is your strength. Your weapon. Wield it.
With Love and Curiosity,