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If you've ever participated in any team athletics, whether elementary school kickball or professional basketball, you've probably been told by some coach or teacher somewhere along the line that if it doesn't hurt (or isn't, at the very least, mildly unpleasant), you just aren't working hard enough.

The interesting thing about yoga, and one of its distinctly non-Western qualities, is that it allows you to work incredibly hard without ever feeling pain, discomfort, or even displeasure of any kind. Yoga should be innately enjoyable because ...

Wise Yogi Tells Us

Your ego lets seemingly nonchalant comments slip out of your mouth, such as "I could do the lotus pose the first time I tried," or "You found the plow position difficult? That's strange," or even, "I can't believe you could stand on one foot for so much longer than I could!" Let all that go. It doesn't help you. It only holds you back.

Wise Yogi Tells Us

Your ego lets seemingly nonchalant comments slip out of your mouth, such as "I could do the lotus pose the first time I tried," or "You found the plow position difficult? That's strange," or even, "I can't believe you could stand on one foot for so much longer than I could!" Let all that go. It doesn't help you. It only holds you back.

> It doesn't hurt. Causing yourself pain would be to ignore the observance of ahimsa (nonviolence).

> It boosts all of you. A successful yoga workout increases self-esteem, along with fitness and awareness.

> It purifies your body, mind, and soul. Being clean feels good!

> Even at its most serious, yoga is just plain fun!

Yoga should never cause you pain. Pain means violence and possibly injury. Violence and injury mean a setback. Better to move slowly and steadily forward than to jump ahead in leaps and bounds, then fall back bedridden for a month. You'll gain so much more strength, flexibility, sensitivity, and awareness if you are so attuned to your body that you push it to its limit, but never far enough to hurt anything. Respect your body, don't abuse it—it's an integral part of you, after all.

Of course, none of us is perfect, and in any physical activity, occasionally we all overdo it, especially when we're trying to outdo someone (even ourselves!). We know you're trying to listen to your body and not be competitive. But just in case, watch out for these signs that you may have injured yourself:

> Severe back pain and muscle spasms could be a sign of a back sprain, often caused by a sudden bending of the spine that tears ligaments.

> Immediate, acute shoulder pain that gets worse over the course of a few hours may be caused by a tear in the tendons and/or muscles around the shoulder joint. A severe tear may inhibit movement and can be caused by a minor fall on an outstretched hand.

> Pain in the knee and an inability to straighten the knee, followed by swelling that lasts for two weeks or more, may be due to torn cartilage. This can happen when a bent knee is twisted.

> Foot pain from standing for excessive amounts of time or overusing the foot can result in a strain or sprain.

> Dizziness can be a sign of low or high blood pressure or blood sugar levels. If you become dizzy, sit down immediately. Check this condition with your doctor.

> Headaches can have numerous sources. One reason people get headaches is because of insufficient oxygen. Pranayama to the rescue! Breathing exercises may help your headaches, and the stress-reducing aspects of yoga can also be helpful for this common problem.

A Yoga Minute

Surveys of industrialized nations show that more than 75 percent of the population over 45 years of age suffers from lower back pain.

A Yoga Minute

Surveys of industrialized nations show that more than 75 percent of the population over 45 years of age suffers from lower back pain.

Of course, the best way to handle an injury is to prevent it. Stay alert to your body. Communicate with your muscles and joints. Be kind to them. Remember ahimsa (nonviolence)!

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