I’m grateful for my body’s rigidity and pain. I know it sounds strange, but it has been a very good friend. Sure there are times when I wish it would just “go away” and leave me alone, but that’s not how pain works. It demands my attention. I imagine you have an “inner friend” a lot like mine who asks you to notice what is happening in your body and mind. If not today, then eventually.

Somewhere along the path, I learned not to let pain and rigidity rule my life. Rather, my friend and I have learned to work together. Pain has taken me on an inner journey that is infinitely more rewarding than any outer, worldly journey could be. As an athlete and yogi for over 30 years now, pain and injury have been a constant in my life. Of course, you don’t have to be an athlete (or a yogi) to experience rigidity and pain. Regardless of one’s occupation or pastime, stresses accumulate in the body and compound one another over time. It’s part of the deal of being human. To paraphrase Buddha’s first noble truth: If you live in a body, there will be pain. We can deny it, we can take pills to avoid it, and we can distract ourselves with activities that hide it, but if Buddha is correct, life and pain—whether it is mental, emotional or physical—go together.

Kaiut Yoga acknowledges this “painful” fact and does not try to avoid it. Having been accidentally shot in the hip at the age of 6, Francisco Kaiut developed an intimate relationship with pain. We can assume he experienced a time when he hated living with pain. We’ve all been there to some degree or another. Why me? Why this? But hate gets us nowhere. At some point, the fight stops and acceptance moves in. It does not mean we quit seeking resolution, it just means we stop fighting. Over the years, I’ve found that the more people identify with and focus on the pain, the harder it is to move past it. The fight holds us hostage to the pain, and the mind and body harden making healing impossible. For the willing however, there IS a way out!

Kaiut Yoga is the most effective pain management tool I have ever known. It operates under a few simple guidelines that I will highlight in this series of four short articles. The first guideline is: Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. This approach is what makes Kaiut Yoga not just a physical practice, but also a deeply spiritual path. And it fits nicely with Buddha’s Four Noble Truths. Suffering is an attitude not a certainty. Pain is part of life, but suffering can be transcended. The former is a fact, the latter a state of mind. Pain ranges from mild to debilitating, but one’s attitude toward it makes all the difference in the world.

If we can accept that pain is part of life, then we are not enslaved to it. The irony is that when they adopt this approach, many people (for the first time in their lives) begin to experience more mobility and less pain! Steeped in this mindset, Kaiut Yoga uses a systematic approach that addresses the whole body and it’s inner systems while navigating the sources of pain and gives those sources of discomfort (usually the joints) the attention they want and need. This yoga goes past the symptoms that normally distract us to the heart of the problem. It’s brilliant and it works.

Be sure to catch Francisco Kaiut, a yoga pioneer and the founder of this great method. He will be at Yoga Loft this July 1-12 for classes and workshops. The classes are experiential and transformative. The workshops are largely didactic but with plenty of practice.