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When Life Hurts: Good or Bad Stretch?

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When Life Hurts: Good or Bad Stretch?

A Crossroads

Not long ago, I was at a crossroads in my life, and as often happens at crossroads, I felt a bit of pain. Down one of four potential roads lay strange but exciting newness. Down another, loss, but with possibility. A third would have required potentially painful growth. A fourth, complete uncertainty. None would be easy. All would require a stretch, and with stretching, we tend to hurt.

Avoiding Pain

When something starts to hurt, we have a tendency to pull back. After all, hurt is something to avoid, right? But what about taking a yoga class? Donít you find yourself in poses that are, at once, completely liberating but hurt like the dickens? I know I do. Itís tempting to stretch too far- to let your ego get caught up in ďsuccess,Ē while you push yourself beyond safe limits and wind up with a torn hamstring. So how do you know where that limit lies? Whatís the difference between good stretch and bad stretch?

Wisdom of the Body

Iíve found that my body tends to know. Thereís a stretch that feels invigorating. Itís a challenge, and stepping up to the plate feels fantastic when you achieve it. By stretching gently, you slowly surrender more deeply into the pose, freeing your mind and unleashing your spirit. But thereís another type of stretch that just feels wrong. You tweak something, feel pain biting into you, and get a sense of dread about whatís happening. One is to be celebrated. The other is best avoided.

How can you tell the difference? You have to listen to your body, mind, and spirit. When youíre stretching, you know the difference between a good stretch and a bad one. Itís when we ignore the messages that suffering happens.

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Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the†Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of†Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.† She is on a grassroots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself.† Lissa blogs at† and also created two online communities -† and† She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.


+ add your own
8:58PM PDT on Oct 4, 2012

Just listen to your body in any activity......

4:28PM PDT on May 7, 2012

Such is life that more often than not, we all need to stretch a little bit more, to reach out, to give of ourselves. To do this without expecting anything in return but doing it from deep within can be liberating. Everyone has financial woes, some more than others. Worrying over this does not help- but looking closely at lifestyle, know the difference between want and need, can help, this can even mean doing without. Keep your faith and spirit strong, thru this all and the burden does not feel as heavy.Trust that someone looks after you.

2:18AM PDT on Apr 24, 2012

I agee with the comment of Anastasia J, yoga is supposed to be non-competitive. Don't push yourself past what feels right. One yoga teacher I know is guilty of 'pushing' her students too far and I know of at least one of them who has been injured. As for the teacher herself, she endured 2 hip replacements at the age of 50. Maybe had she not been so competitive, her hips may not have worn out.

1:17PM PDT on Mar 16, 2012

don't worry, be happy

3:48PM PDT on Mar 11, 2012

My yoga instructor always emphasizes it's a "non-competative" class!

7:11PM PST on Mar 10, 2012

thank you for sharing!

8:11AM PST on Dec 8, 2011

I really want to know which choice Lissa made...!

Reading this made me decide I'd write a letter to myself, to be opened in the new year. I'll come back after the break and find some advice and suggestions waiting for me. One of the first things I'd like to do is start some yoga.

12:57PM PDT on May 27, 2011

Thanks for sharing...

8:16AM PDT on Apr 2, 2011

thank u

10:13PM PST on Feb 21, 2011

This is a start. This is similar to a question. The answer is up to each individual, and what will help that person.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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