THIS IS YOGA | The Value of Discomfort

This is a time for change. This is an opportunity. This is Yoga. We invite you to explore the first in a series of readings from Kripalu in which we will share how yoga’s ancient wisdom provides guidance on mindful action in a world in turmoil. 

October 12, 2020

Whether it’s holding a difficult posture for a sustained period of time, or acknowledging a mounting fear brought on by world events that feel beyond our control—Yoga teaches us that discomfort plays an important role in our lives. We cannot grow without change, and change creates discomfort. Never has this truth been more relevant than now. What we sometimes refer to as ‘yoga off the mat’ helps us navigate this feeling. It can even help us see it for what it is—opportunity.  

Discomfort in the world 

Right now, we are experiencing discomfort of global proportions. We may be asking ourselves what we should be doing about it, and the question itself can cause further anxiety. What do we do with our fear, sadness, anger, and doubt? At times like this, we must practice discernment. We need to first sit with the discomfort, be present with it, and consider what it is and how we might be responsive rather than reactionary. In this state, with a calm mind and an open heart, we can find our center, and move forward with clarity.

Discomfort at Kripalu 

At Kripalu, we have been sitting in discomfort, as well. We have been examining ourselves as an organization in order to become more whole, more diverse, and inclusive. We are acknowledging that we’ve gained from thousand-year-old practices that have their roots in South Asian culture.  We must be more accountable to that history. We have begun that work and we still have work to do. 

Discomfort and taking action  

Yogic philosophy contains five Yamas, or duties meant to help one live an ethical life. The first is Ahimsa, or non-violence, and the second is Satya, which means truthfulness.  These two Yamas are to be practiced alongside each other.  So, for example, when we see repeated racial violence without justice, or constant unchecked environmental harm to our planet, we must speak our truth. Beyond speaking, we must allow the basic yogic practice of service to lead us to action, to alter our own behavior, to peacefully organize, protest, vote, and stand up for what is right. This is a time for change. This is our opportunity. This is Yoga.  

Kripalu’s mission is to serve with compassion. To that end, over the next several weeks, we want to serve you in this moment. We want to help guide you from discomfort to action by digging deeper into the ancient wisdom of Yoga. To start, here are some readings that we hope you’ll find inspiring.

We are honored to walk with you on this path to a better world. 

Further Reading and Resources

How Kripalu’s Core Values Can Guide Us Through Challenging Times by Aruni Nan Futuronsky

What the Dharma Teaches About Peace and Politics by Jack Kornfield

The Yoga of Politics by the Kripalu Editorial Team

8 Steps for Committing to Activism: The Yoga of Social Change by the Kripalu Editorial Team

We invite you to share your feedback in this continued discussion on the role of yogic philosophy in the modern world. This is a conversation that welcomes all voices and backgrounds and we encourage conversation. Please reply via this secure form,  and know that while we read every response, we do not have the ability to reply to all entries.

Barbara Vacarr, PhD, Kripalu's CEO from 2016–2021, is a psychologist, adult educator, and lifelong meditator who writes about and speaks to topics related to mindfulness, compassion, conscious leadership, and activism.

Full Bio and Programs