In spite of all we do to try to be comfortable, life is full of discomfort. We run into the gamut of experiences as we go along, sometimes blissful, sometimes inconvenient, maybe fun, maybe unhappy. So what gets us through all of this? Can we find a sense of balance even when things are not so comfortable?
The yoga practice gives us ways of trying out strategies to find ease no matter what is going on. Perhaps it is a demanding situation at work or in a relationship, or with a physical injury or hard times with circumstances beyond your control. On the mat, maybe it's a twisting balance, a scary back bend or even just sustaining through something muscular and simple like Kapotasana (pigeon) or Utkatasana (Fierce Pose). Where can we loosen up, where can we let go of the gripping, what is the source of the support? Perhaps we can identify the impingement that we brought into the situation and by noticing that, we can better relax around it, or work into releasing it.
Taking things in steps and stages can help identify where the real issues might be -- perhaps in the body it is something out of alignment, perhaps in the workplace or relationship this could be true as well. Getting things lined up so that there is support for the moving parts... allowing the toes to spread fully on the floor, the inner core of the heel softening and leaning into the earth will allow a standing posture to unfold with more ease, even if it involves a twist in the ribs, and active squaring of the hips. Maybe attention and focus on the breath will help identify how one hip is moving ahead of the other, causing the twist in the shoulder that is tightening the neck. Just forcing the ribs around into an idea of a shape and letting the feet stay off balance is not comfortable and the shape is of no consequence without cultivating the awareness. In human relationships or with pressures at work, it can also be a matter of finding the balance between the all-out effort, and letting go of the goal -- that shape -- and exploring that which is actually happening in the moment.
You can keep breathing and just force yourself to hang on tight for another breath in that unpleasant place, but what you learn from this experience is "how hard it is," or perhaps make more room for judgments about yourself, others and everyone's inadequacies. Maybe all that gritting of teeth makes for an opportunity to pat yourself on the back for pushing yourself, just another way of inflating ego. Is that the path to happiness? I don't think so. It's a little like arguing forcefully until you win the argument but at the cost of the trust and respect in the relationship. Is "winning" the argument what makes happiness? Again, stroking ego instead of opening up to the possibilities of what could be loosened, of what caused the tension in you in the first place.
Thinking about ease rather than comfort can be a help on and off the mat. Not talking here about "hard" and "easy" but ease - as in what would ease the pain, or ease the tension, or ease the sense of confusion, or ease the pressure? Can the source of the discomfort be identified? Next time you are impatiently waiting, or feel you haven't got the time, or are about to snap at someone, or can't make up your mind, or feel that heat rising in the muscles, or the tension in your neck, or can't fall asleep or have to get up too early... what can you do to help find ease in the moment? Can you find your breath? Is there a way to use the inhale to draw strength, energy, a shifting of attention or an opening of spaciousness, and let go of something on the exhale (shoulders, jaw, tension in the fingers)? Allow yoga to help you learn to ease up. Whether you are comfortable or uncomfortable may stop being so important if you can find ease right where you are.