Samskaras and Pain

Pain is an interesting word. We all know that pain means we hurt. Sometimes the reason we hurt is obvious….an injury for example. Other times the source of pain is not apparent. But how does pain develop? Pain can occur when there’s tissue damage….i.e. a broken limb. It is also true that pain can be severe even when there is no tissue damage. Pain is the brain’s response to trauma. This response can take place even if the area has healed.

Physiologically this works through neural pathways. The brain receive a signal from muscles and other organs. If the message is that there may be danger (think touching a hot surface) the brain sends it’s own painful signal via the nerves to pull away quick. All this happens in seconds. This is an important response that is designed to protect the body from injury.

This response can become a habitual one that occurs even when the danger passes. So the brain interprets a signal that previously was associated with danger, and it sends a signal of pain to protect from tissue damage. It seems a little screwed up, right? However, if the brain did not respond to touching a hot surface with pain, you may leave your hand on a hot surface and suffer 3rd degree burns. The problem occurs when the brain gets into the habit of sending pain signals when there is no danger to the body.

There is a yogic term for these habitual patterns. It is a samskara…a  learned response or pattern of behavior. Samskara can refer to emotional, social or physical behavior. The physical aspect of a samskara is the learned response of the nervous system to some sort of action or stimulus. Sometimes this happens quickly. A good example is practicing a balance pose. The first side often feels more shaky than the second side. Sometimes there’s a physical reason for this, such as strength differences between the two lower limbs. However, it is often a samskara. The brain and nervous system has already learned what to do from practicing the posture on the first side. Therefore side number 2 seems easier.

Samskaras can also contribute to chronic pain. The neural pathway signals for pain to occur in response to danger. Sometimes something occurs that has indicated danger in the past. Even though there is no current danger (i.e. no tissue damage) the brain still signals the nerves to respond with pain. This can  become a vicious circle because pain can increase stress which can make nerves more sensitive and thus more susceptible to pain.

It’s important to note that there is no one size fits all approach to reprogramming your samskaras or your pain. The first step should always be to visit your doctor, physical therapist or other healthcare practitioner. In addition to medical care it is useful to reduce stress levels and shift your focus away from the pain. Yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness practices can help to resolve painful samskaras.

If you’d like a personalized sequence or an individual session focused on your health goals, please drop me a line at You can also join me for one of my classes. See my offerings on my schedule page.

For more tips on pain relief and injury prevention through yoga and physical therapy, sign up for my newsletter here, or follow me on social media on FaceBook @yogalorie, Instagram Wellness_with_Lorie, or LinkedIn yogalorie

What to Do When You Overdo…

(aka Don’t let DOMS dominate you)

We’ve all been there; sore achy muscles the day after a workout or physical labor. Walking funny, due to overused muscles after “leg day” at the gym, is often worn like a badge of honor. You know you really killed it at the gym if you’re in pain afterwards….right?

I must confess that I’ve never been one who loves working out. I consider it a necessary part of life to keep my heart healthy. I delight in practicing yoga, meditation, and core strengthening every morning. I go to the gym for a little more strengthening, and to really get my heart pumping. Although I’ve had a few muscles that let me know they worked hard, I have yet to be walking funny, or screaming in pain as I sit in a chair after my workouts. As I hear the laments of others post-workout, I sometimes ask myself…..”Am I doing this right?” and “Why doesn’t it hurt more?” But seriously….is muscle soreness and extreme stiffness/pain necessary for muscles to gain strength?

While it is common for muscles to feel sore a day or two after a new exercise program, if there’s extreme pain or loss of function a day or two afterwards, then that’s NOT okay. There’s a name for this phenomenon…..Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS for short. DOMS happens when tissues break down as a result of being overstretched, creating small tears in the muscle fibers. Since this is actually an injury to the muscle, that muscle then needs to recover before any gains in strengthening can be made. You have to start over and progress gradually to achieve your goals. So how can one find relief when DOMS occurs.?

Here are some ways to avoid DOMS during a workout

  • Warm up before resistance training
  • Have consistency in your workouts
  • Don’t try to push through the pain (your body is telling you to back off)
  • Be conscious of your form while exercising.
  • Avoid intense stretches
  • Stay hydrated
  • Consider using compression garments during your workout

If you do “overdo” it, here are some ideas to find relief from DOMS

  • Rest. Give the muscles time to recover.
  • Gentle massage can help (avoid deep massages, though)
  • Use a Foam Roller or self massage with a towel roll
  • Compression Garments
  • Light exercise with gentle movements
  • Hot packs or warm baths can help

As I said earlier, I’ve engaged in negative self talk, when witnessing others pain after workouts. Was my workout effective….even without the pain? True, I will never be a gym worshiper, but I’m confident that I can do what’s good for my heart , avoid injury, AND make gains in strengthening and endurance. So I’m changing the question to myself to, “What am I doing right?”

For a yoga class to help all your body parts feel better, try one of my weekly offerings. I teach Hatha Yoga (Sundays 5-6 pm MT), Yoga 1 (Mondays, 5:30 pm MT) and Healing through Yoga (Wednesdays at 5:30 MT).

If you’d like a personalized sequence or an individual session focused on your health goals, please drop me a line at You can also sign up for a class or private session by clicking here. For more tips on pain relief and injury prevention through yoga and physical therapy, sign up for my newsletter here, or follow me on social media on FaceBook @yogalorie, Instagram Wellness_with_Lorie, or LinkedIn yogalorie