I’ve had some weird experiences in yoga classes and most relate to expectations about pain, or what will or won’t cause pain.

virasana courtesy of YJ and John Schumacher

(hey, that’s John Schumacher! )

Many of our clients when asked to sit in virasana, complain of knee pain.  90% of the time we put a belt folded up several time behind the knee, creating space on the back side of the knee, the pain diminishes.  Similar to this, from PLN Yoga Studio:

PLN Yoga Studio: belt behind the knee, only 1 thickness; can fold over several times for more space behind the knee

Or, I sit in Virasana and my butt doesn’t touch the floor.  Many yoga teachers want me to sit on something to “reduce the strain on the knees”.  But, I have no strain.  Or, more properly, I feel none.  And, even with chronic overuse, I feel no strain.

And, yet… a few years ago I fell out of handstand in a workshop.  Ugh.  Very embarrassing.  My favorite pose.  But, I had a chronic injury in my shoulder that I’d been ignoring.  And it got worse (duh!).  My yoga therapy teacher required that we have 3 private sessions with her.  In the first one, she figured out exactly what I was doing and not doing in Adho Mukha Svanasana that likely cause an overuse injury.


So, I’m mindful of pain being an indicator that “something is wrong”.  And, it’s likely that the thing that’s wrong is mechanical – mis-alignment and/or lack of muscle engagement.

One of our heroes, Doug Keller, has this terrific article in Yoga International, and he explores the particulars relative to knees:



The Sanskrit word “viveka” means “right understanding” or “discriminating awareness”.  It seems to me that in the context of pain while doing a yoga pose, Viveka is a requirement.  The discrimination comes from experience and understanding.  Reading material like Doug’s article coupled with me then experimenting with several of the scenarios allows me have direct experience.  My understanding is all the better for it.

On the other hand, I just heard a story from a yoga teacher about a student who came to class and said that during the last class she had to use so much that they hurt and she thought she should refrain from using them in this class.  The teacher was quick to gather more information and then explain that the muscles “hurt” because they were sore because of lack of use.  The soreness was a step in the process of building muscle and she should use them more not less.

Just like the last post, we can see that there is “good pain” and “bad pain”.   And, as a part of your regular practice, you are the only person who can decide which the pain is.  Once you decide good versus bad, you can also decide to proceed or back off and adjust.