If there was a way to avoid painful, unpleasant future events, would you choose to do so? One of the most thought provoking aspects of yoga is the idea that we can prevent or lessen future pain and suffering. This concept, which comes from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, is stated in slightly different ways, depending on whose translation of the Sutras you are reading. Most important is the idea; yoga is a healing art and philosophy that can delay or eliminate physical and emotional disturbances that cause pain and suffering.

Avoiding Physical Pain

There are many forms and causes of pain in life; we all experience them at one time or another. In considering how yoga can help us avoid future pain, physical problems, aches and illness may be the easiest example. Aging is certain for all of us; the unattended body is in a slow, but constant state of decline. Loss of flexibility, joint pain, instability and more are virtually certain for all of us.

Yoga can delay the onset of many of these problems and even prevent others. There is a growing body of research that documents the positive results of yoga on many typical ailments and illnesses. Through the regular practice of yoga, we are preventing discomfort and pain that otherwise is sure to occur. 

Lessening Emotional Disturbances

Though at times, acute mental anguish is all too obvious, mental suffering is often harder to discern and diagnose than physical pain. There are also many forms and ways that mental discomfort might present itself. Still, yoga offers both relief and preventative measures.

Negative emotional attachments, expectations and even to life, itself, is one of the most common sources of mental pain. Through yoga, we learn to lessen the grip we have on these attachments. This can happen in deliberate ways as we study the limbs of yoga and learn to recognize the obstacles on the road to enlightenment. It can also happen it more subtle ways, which we may not realize at the time, as our efforts in yoga calm the mind and make us more aware of our inner nature.

It’s important to remember that none of this happens without an ongoing, consistent yoga practice, including some study of yoga philosophy. It deepens our understanding of how yoga influences the mind and how the mind influences our thoughts and actions.

While we may experience temporary relief from a particular discomfort after a single yoga class, it takes many classes to receive the full effects. It may even turn into a lifelong journey! Pay attention to the sensations in your body and mind after your next yoga sessions, and see if they lead you to more yoga.