One of my dear teachers first introduced me to the concept that everything, even (and often especially) the difficult stuff, is a gift. My initial resistance to this spacious way of looking at life only further highlighted my narrow tendency to be a "good vibes only" kinda person. Seeking only the light and denying the dark is also rampant in our modern yoga culture which celebrates the shine, evidenced by the over-emphasis on external expressions of yoga: the poses, the pants, the pretty people.
As a practitioner and teacher, it's also a trap that I've fallen into: the focus on form and function over feeling. And this becomes a slippery slope straight into spiritual bypassing--using the practice to further reinforce unconscious patterns. Believing that only "good vibes" are a gift, keeps us on a superficial path that may allow us to temporarily avoid pain, but also prevents the possibility for transformation. At its core, Yoga is a path of transformation; I heard this early on in my own journey: "don't keep practicing if you don't want to change." At the time, what I wanted to change most was my bum. Seriously, I was 18 and I wanted a yoga-butt. Two decades later and the bum is gone, but the inner shaping continues. And just as I passed through periods of significant physical pain as I struggled to learn the forms, in the last years as my practice has been more internally focused, there have been periods of significant emotional pain. Whereas in the early days, when my back hurt, I popped an ibuprofin and kept on doing vinyasa, now I know that pain is part of the process and instead of trying to medicate my way out of it, if I can be still with it, eventually it changes.
More recently, another Beloved offered a phrase that is sometimes offered in the Vipassana tradition to people who are experiencing the pain that inevitably arises when one sits still to meditate for 10 days:
Take it as Blessing
This simple instruction totally transformed how I can relate to a painful situation in my life. Instead of bracing against emotions (or physical sensations, other people, challenging situations), we are invited to receive them. More than a gift, pain in all its forms can be recognized as the divine support that it is--a confirmation that indeed, everything is perfect as it is. Suffering comes as a result of how we relate with what is here now. When we stop rejecting and start receiving, we can shift from reacting to responding. This can be the difference between continuing to do the same ol' shit over and over again and consciously choosing to evolve. And again, if you're practicing Yoga, you've already signed up for transformation of some kind. However, it's up to you whether the change goes beyond how you look in your stretchy pants.
To be clear: the point is not to hurt yourself needlessly. It is not to push through your limits, whether in trikonasana or in relationship. In an asana practice, it means feeling into your body, attuning to your energetic levels, observing the quality of your mind, listening to your breath and adapting in a way that is respectful of yourself while remaining in the pose. In your life, it means the same thing: paying attention to what is arising right now and staying with it, trusting that everything--the pain and the pleasure and everything in between is Blessing.