Pantanjali tells us in the yoga sutras that the practice of yoga helps us overcome the suffering that is yet to come (2.16 heyam duhkum anagatam) and that the cause of this suffering is from an identification with that which is ephemeral, impure and painful rather than that which is eternal and joyful. (2.5 anitya ashuci duhka anatmasu nita shuci sukham atama khyatir avidya)
My good friend Julia Shaida writes, "that this state of unknowing that causes the suffering, avidya, is not blank ignorance. It is settled action. We name things. We decide. We put labels on our experiences and we think we know. We think we know what is good and bad. We think we know what safety and what danger is. We think we know what will last. And we think we know who we are."
In addition, this state of not or un-knowing can be quiet, dormant, weak, interrupted or in full force. We may have no idea.
The first step in our yoga practice is knowing what we don't know so that the the practice can bring up to the surface that which is unconscious or dormant and that which has a hold on you. And set you free!
Here is a practical example. You are in a pose that is difficult, let's say a forward bend. It's becomes very clear and rises to your consciousness that your legs are tight. The cause of this tightness could be anything physical or emotional. But, how do you react? My legs are so tight? I can't do this? I should have started years ago.? I hate this stupid pose. Why is the teacher making me do this pose? and suffer? I'm going to the other class next week, she makes me mad.
Is the difficulty the pose, you or the teacher? No, the difficulty was always there and the pose gave you the chance to experience it, know it and hopefully release it. What poses do you now have a different relationship with? What did you learn from that transition?
Sutras 2.7 and 2.8 also alert us that we tend to pull those things that gives us pleasure and push away those things that give us pain. When we cling to a preference whether it's because of attachment or aversion suffering continues because we miss opportunities for growth and to experience things as they are. They have a hold on us.
Clinging to a preference to a pose I might miss experiencing its fullness and if I utterly avoid a pose or category of a pose, I definitely miss out on what it has to teach me. When I can accept it as it is, experience, feel it, release it, transform it I am unburdened and I no longer have to carry it around in that "unfinished" or dormant state.
When you become aware of a painful state what Judith Hanson Lasater refers to as "unmasking suffering" it is the process that helps you grow, connect deeply to ourselves and others.