How to Navigate Discomfort

By Ashley Josephine

In yoga you practice poses; and yet it’s the space between the poses that sometimes give you the most trouble.

When you breathe, you notice the in and the out, and then that space in between that so many teachers talk about. You might secretly hate that space. It’s indescribable, unidentifiable, form- agnostic, much like the protons and electrons of chemistry lore that never quite merged smoothly with the direction of your brain traffic. And besides, when you’re too busy identifying the space between, you forget to breathe and then feel like you want to pass out.

You can even find the space between in linguistics, although it’s much harder to put words to it. Consider the black and the white. And then of course, that dreaded grey area. The space between that no one quite knows how to define universally, other than to blend a little black and a little white for an ugly, cold color that is uninviting and frankly depressing.

The thing is, the space between is so elusive because it hurts.

No one wants to tackle pain head on. Unfortunately, the more you ignore it, the more you set yourself up for a monster batch of it later in life. I know, it doesn’t make sense.

What can you do when your life experiences so accurately represent the color grey? (The damn color is so amorphous no one can quite agree how to spell it.

First off, stop looking to make sense of it. Until you can accept that there is no sense to be made, you will loathe every space between. Yeah, life’s weird. It’s supposed to be.

Second, look for learning, instead of answers. The difference lies in the outcome: learning gives you information, while answers give you direction. Information is more flexible than direction.

Learning is fun until it’s not, which is most often when you find yourself in the thick of it. That space between the anticipation of starting something new and the relief and satisfaction of completing a project is where you’ll wallow and fail and become susceptible to the death grip of uncertainty. When you seek answers, from this space, you’ll probably find it’s best to leave. When you open up to learning, you’ll move closer to understanding (see #1).

Third, find a space with no in-betweens and covet it. Consider your concept of home. Moving to a new place presents a lot of in-between spaces. The space of your home that you are moving from becomes an uncomfortable, unrecognizable jungle as you purge and pack. The hotel that you might stay in while waiting to get everything in order becomes a scary reality. Your new home is a blank canvas requiring hours of creative work – physical, emotional and mental. It’s that space you inhabit between your first walk over the threshold and the completion of the last picture hung when you want to scream, pull your hair out and go back “home.”

But if you were looking for answers, your mind would tell you to leave. And where’s that going to get you? Probably into a whole lot of misery.

The only space with no in-betweens is your body. You either have it or you don’t. Learning to craft your space, feel your power and embrace your center will keep you grounded as you move through all those external in-betweens. Learn it.

In yoga you can move from pose to pose, but in your hurry to master the pose itself, you’ll forget about the movements that get you in and out. It’s that space you neglect and forget because it’s inconsequential to the final display of human body twistery you’re so desperately striving for. If you paid attention to how you got there, you might learn something new along the way. You might learn nothing. At the very least, you gain grace.

It’s the space between the poses that often makes us most frustrated. Holding a runner’s lunge. Kicking up into handstand. How many times do you sabotage your own success by neglecting the in-between details? How many times do you sabotage your body by ignoring what the in-betweens in your life are doing to you?

It takes time to identify the in-betweens – time that you don’t have and/or prefer not to spend on frustrating activities.

More than anything, yoga is about training your awareness. If you can train your brain to transition from one pose to the next with intention and grace (ie, awareness) you can move through life’s challenges with the same attention to detail. You can train to make it through the toughest, most uncomfortable in-between moments.

Dave Matthews was on to something when he sang “the space between our wicked lies is where we hope to keep safe from pain.” Whereas we often hope the space between is a transitory state only to be visited between times of normalcy, comfort and routine, sometimes, we can only find normalcy in between more frequent periods of chaos and disruption.

Regardless of its length, the space between is a tricky one that can only be experienced successfully with grace, humor and a deep knowing of what is true for you.

When will you start training?

Ashley Josephine has been studying yoga for 5 years and currently lives and teaches in Wichita Falls, TX. A writer, traveler and a whole lot of other things, Ashley believes wholeheartedly in experiences and is passionate about empowering women through yoga and mindfulness based practices. Sign up on ashleyjosephine.com if you’re a woman working through life’s daily stresses. You’ll get worldly wisdom, yoga, meditation and other free resources delivered straight to your inbox.

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photo by: Clairspics