We have heard that pain is the messenger from our bodies to our mind. How does your mind greet the messenger? Is it something to be shooed away because you are too busy or is it welcomed because of the warning it brings? If you “listen” to the pain in your muscles, while doing your Yoga, and act accordingly, it may make the difference between easing the muscle tension or aggravating the problem area. Over-riding or blocking the pain, as though it were an enemy, usually pushes it into your bio-memory as a negative experience that will slow down the healing. There are different types of pain that you should learn to recognize if you want to use Yoga to help heal your body. The two main types are acute and chronic pain. Acute pain is the first stage after an injury and can be felt as a strong ache in the muscle or joints, or sharp zaps as in nerve pain e.g. spinal injuries where the nerve is impinged. If there has been any micro-tearing of muscle attachments, one can experience heat and pressure from fluid build-up at the injury site. Bringing deep awareness to these sensations and understanding the message can help you decide whether you should do stretches for that body part today, or maybe rest is what it needs to give it the opportunity to heal. If there is any doubt in your mind, you should consult a physician before doing Yoga or any other form of exercise. Chronic pain can result from an injury site not having enough opportunity to fully heal because it is difficult to avoid using that body part in day-to-day life. Our muscles have a memory that can be activated when we make a certain move that is similar to the move that resulted in the injury. The nervous system will go into guard mode, leading to unnecessary tension that can be felt as a dull ache. This is a “friendly” warning, letting us know that we need to be aware of the limits of the muscle’s ability to safely contract or stretch in this moment. So being fully present to the muscle’s sensations, moving in and out of the poses slowly with control may allow you to help that muscle relax. But if the nervous system senses you are moving too quickly or too far, it will simply guard more, possibly leading to more tearing of muscle fibers. In the enthusiasm to take a pose to deeper levels, we may not pay enough attention to our body’s sensations. Many yoga injuries happen due to overstretching and tearing muscle fibers at their attachment points to bone, usually above or below a joint. If you feel pain near the joints, you should reduce the intensity of the stretch. It is safer to feel tension in the middle section or belly of the muscle. Hold the position until the tension releases and then slowly take the stretch a little deeper until you feel the tension again. Hold again until it releases. The tension should not feel painful. This method will take longer, but think of the strength you are building especially in the legs when you are doing standing poses. The other aspect you are developing is patience with the pace your body needs to release its tension. So patiently “listen” to your friendly pain messenger for a safer and more enjoyable Yoga practice. Patanjali, the ”Father of Yoga” promotes Ahimsa (non-violence) that includes being kind to ourselves.