Pain Isn’t Optional. But Suffering Is.

Carie Sherman

Yoga has been a constant in my life since I was 25 when I wanted nothing more than a yogi’s body. It protected my runner’s knees, calmed my spinning mind, and grounded me when I was pregnant. And since I got sick, yoga has helped change me on the inside. It’s taught me about inhabiting–and loving–the body I’m in. Even in perceived moments of failure.

Today I received a gift from Bernie Clark, a yoga instructor based in Vancouver, through a 60 minute online yin yoga class called Happy Hips where he spoke about happiness and joy. It’s true, my hips feel yippy skippy. But I most benefited from his words on suffering. I think you might too.  

Bernie (I hope he’s okay with my informality) used an example from his childhood, a day where everyone in his class was to receive a vaccination. He observed his friend spend every moment leading up to the shot in agony and fear, completely overwhelmed by the pain he would soon experience. In contrast, Bernie received his shot without all-consuming worry. Sure, it hurt. But only for a few minutes.

His point? Physical pain is a sensation. It cannot be avoided. Yet many of us, like his friend, surround our pain with a level of suffering that makes it debilitating.

It’s something I do all the time.

  1. My sister got married last week. I worried for months about being sick on her wedding day. What would I do? How would I handle it? What would she think? Sure, I needed to be prepared and plan appropriately. But months of worry only made me suffer.
  2. I sprained my wrist. Whether it resulted from my body’s attack on my connective tissues or was a freak occurrence, I don’t know. But every time I feel something slightly akin to a pulling sensation coming from any joint, I spiral into an “OMG” moment that ends with me being crippled. Which then cripples me emotionally.
  3. I woke up on yesterday feeling good, so I took a long walk with my dog and daughter. After our naps, I hurt. Not the good “I worked out” hurt, but that you-over-did-it-and-spent-too-much-time-in-the-sun ache. I could have been happy that I was home and could rest. Instead, I let it ruin the consume my day. Am I a terrible mom for letting my girl watch TV while I rested? Will my husband be mad that I didn’t finish the laundry? Will I be too sick to work tomorrow? Is it time I declare myself a vampire and move to the Pacific Northwest?

Life with autoimmune issues has forced me to learn some decent life lessons. Today I learned that even when physical pain is constant; it’s still only a sensation. I don’t need to suffer.

I found Bernie’s class through MyYogaOnline, a subscription-based service that brings yoga to you. If you’re interested in what yoga can do for your body and mind and have never taken a class, I encourage you to find a local studio with classes for beginners. Or look for classes marked gentle, therapeutic, or restorative. Harmony Yoga in east Denver has a handful of classes for people with lupus, MS, or other challenges that affect the body. I highly recommend this studio. Learn more at


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