Patanjali states in Sutra 2.16 that “the pain or grief that is yet to come is avoidable” which seems a contradiction taken at face value. Pain is a certainty in the human existence. The questions being only when, how much and how often.
But Patanjali is not saying we will avoid events that can cause pain, he is merely pointing out that how we suffer, or if we suffer, is a choice, and that the sutras can be a great tool for those who choose to use them.
From the physical aches and pains of inactivity, over-activity to aging and illness right through the emotional traumas whether they be bumps, bruises or brutal attacks, yoga is about learning to push through and push away. To endure until one can let go. Whether by means of asana (postures), breathing exercises (pranayama) or meditation (dhyana), we have the tools necessary to avoid future pain.
When we cultivate a physical practice, we strengthen and prepare the body for what it will face as we age. Mindfulness of the breath is the path to controlling stress and wild thoughts. Meditation, or prayer, turns us inward and has the ultimate effect of connecting us to everything. All together, these practices prepare us for accepting and letting go because it is these actions that help us avoid pain.
*This is a rough draft of my presentation for test weekend in June. Thoughts?