what is yoga pain?

What is Yoga Pain?

What is Yoga Pain?

I’m pretty sure I just made it up. The reason I made up the term was to try to capture a growing problem among not only yoga professionals (teachers and therapists) but also my healthcare professional colleagues. The Yoga Pain seems to be the result of our individual and collective “forgetting” how everything is connected…that Unity thing of yoga.

That’s right, we keep forgetting and that generates even more pain rather than solving the pain epidemic and despite all of our good intentions. We just “forget” and slip into our habits of mind of applying parts to complex, relational challenges. That’s the reason why I wrote my new book: Yoga Therapy as a Creative Response to Pain.

Not convinced? Consider the following challenges we all face. Let’s begin by defining Yoga Pain like so:

Yoga Pain [yoh-guh peyn]


  1. The emotions, stress, fear, and burden of teaching yoga to relieve pain.
  2. The result of an inappropriately taught yoga session.
  3. That bad little feeling that one is actually just a poser when they teach yoga.
  4. Bread served at French yoga studios

That last one hurt, didn’t it? But it is a definition. My point is to highlight the fluidity of language and the potential for misunderstanding to arise for both simple and complex concepts. Pain, of course, is a complex concept.

what is yoga pain?

How Complex is Pain?

Well, if you think you understand it, you’re wrong. Yep, wrong. Here’s why:

  • Pain science is changing so fast the experts admit to not being able to keep up with all of the new developments. And you can?
  • Pain is now considered an emergent phenomenon from complex living systems … not even confined to the organism reporting pain. Your pain or your student’s pain isn’t just yours.
  • Because pain is emergent, there is much that can’t be predicted about the outcome of any single remedy/intervention. That’s right, your favorite “sacral rebalancing sequence” (sic) doesn’t rebalance the sacrum …and hasn’t and won’t be demonstrated to be anymore effective than numerous “treatments.”
  • A review of the Wisdom traditions to include classical yoga texts reveals the unbroken arc of the human quest to understand and avoid suffering and pain. You sure you want to claim to understand it? …I don’t.

Well, Do We Just Give Up on Pain Then?

No, but there have been times when I considered it during my almost 40-year career. Especially when I retired from clinical care 2 years ago and could finally appreciate how exhausted and spent I was on every kosha plane (technically you can’t affect ananda maya kosha, but it sure felt like it!). But as I reflected on my experience I decided instead to share what I learned in order to hopefully keep yoga and rehab professionals healthier and possibly more effective too.

What’s Different About Your Pain Book?

Quite a bit actually. Consider the following things about my book:

  • There isn’t an asana in it.
  • I refute (in an irreverent way) things about yoga and pain that are taken as “true,” but are not.
  • Your student/patient’s pain is your pain and vice versa. Acknowledge it and act differently from now on.
  • We’re wasting our time thinking we are eradicating pain if our yoga doesn’t also address systemic/structural causes in society that create suffering. I offer ways to do just that.
  • Pain invites a creative response. It isn’t something to be done away with or overcome. I show you how.

Those are just a few the ways my book is different from the yoga books of “Yoga for [Name the Problem]”. I also yoke some very important topics from our modern understanding that haven’t had the dots connected before…both in the yoga world and conventional medicine. Have you downloaded a chapter yet? Get it here for free.

what is yoga pain?

Sounds Kinda Complicated?

If you are looking for a quick, one-night page flipper, this isn’t it. There are parts that are “thick” reading because of the complexity that is our world. But I think I’ve also been able to take the complication out of some of it to offer very practical insights into “how to” or what I call in the book, the “So what?” factor. There are plenty of books that get so metaphysical/ethereal/abstract that two hours later you wonder, why’d I bother? Talk about a pain!?!

But Pain Science is Changing So Fast!

I wrote this book with that very concern in mind. Could I offer material that would provide the reader with an approach that could withstand the certain shifts in understanding about pain? I think I have done just that. By linking one emergent experience (pain) with another emergent phenomenon (creativity) I am certain you will create your own robust system of development and growth throughout the remainder of your career. You will also learn fundamental practices that will foster your personal and business growth far into a future none of us can even imagine today. I think ; )  [That’s a ‘certainty’ joke]


  1. Ken stec on August 21, 2018 at 7:58 am

    Reading your book and it’s making me think, get angry, give-up, laugh and just say “ok”. Now that’s painful! Thanks.

    • Dr. Matthew J Taylor on August 21, 2018 at 8:37 am

      I’ll accept that with much gratitude Ken, especially given your experience and having been at it in the real world as long as you have been. That was my target response. My son in Brooklyn just texted me last wk looking for a yoga teacher…I’ll send him your way. When I was doing my doctoral studies he’d climb up on my lap and declare, “Let’s do some philosophizing, Dad.” …he’s a natural. Thanks again Ken. ~ matt

  2. Civi Jacobsen on August 27, 2018 at 3:23 pm

    When your book be available in Canada? I ordered it through UofT press months ago and nothing has been sent? I would love to dig in and spread the word.