Recently, I took a three-hour yoga workshop in the afternoon -- that's right: three hours -- and the instructor introduced an interesting concept. There's a difference, she said, between pain and what she called "sweet discomfort."

Sweet discomfort. I love that image.

Sweet discomfort, she said, is the point at which you're aware that you're stretching beyond your capabilities. It doesn't hurt, but it's not where you're used to being.

Sweet discomfort is something I've experienced many times, but because I fear it will lead to real pain, I sometimes turn back. The result?

No growth. No increased flexibility. No moving to the next level.

I certainly experienced sweet discomfort when I was learning to eat a healthier diet and to challenge my body with exercise. There are body image moments of sweet discomfort, too. Maybe it's wearing a form-fitting dress after years of hiding. Or walking down the beach in a new swimsuit. Or looking -- really looking -- in the mirror.

None of these things cause pain. But they can sometimes cause that uncomfortable feeling.

Experiencing the "sweet discomfort" -- and knowing that a new way of being or of looking at ourselves exists on the other side -- is something to strive for. Whenever I have that "I want to turn back" feeling, I'll forever stop to ask myself: Is what I'm feeling pain?

Or simply sweet discomfort?

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