Suffering differs from pain. Suffering is caused by the emotional reaction we lay on top of our pain. By becoming aware of our emotions and thoughts about pain, their hold on us can be released…This awareness is the tada, or ‘state of yoga’ about which Patanjali speaks. From this perspective, spiritual seeking is not what we do outwardly, but what we acknowledge inwardly.
– Judith Lasater, Living Your Yoga
Judith was the first yoga teacher who helped me understand this distinction. When she first posited the concept to me, my first reactive (and arrogant) thought was that she didn’t know pain. I was incredulous that the two – suffering and pain – could be bifurcated.
Indeed, it can be; it can be very hard, indeed. Sometimes impossible.
But yoga provides the space, the breathing space, to separate pain – acute physical pain, overwhelming emotional pain – from the experience of suffering.
In that way yoga has saved my life.
(Judith was also the first teacher who accurately reflected back my experience of yoga and fibromyalgia. She correctly observed that sometimes moving is better, sometimes not. The practice needs to stay nimble and responsive to the body on the mat that day – and it can take 5-10 minutes to feel that out.)