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  • Amna Mazin

How to understand pain in dance class

Updated: Dec 27, 2021

It was a warm spring day in March of 2010. I was just about to teach my first dance class at a Montessori. A group of three to four year olds ran into the classroom with nervous excitement. We stretch and I teach them how to do a split for the first time:


One leg in front of the other. Back knee kisses the floor. Slide our legs down a rainbow bridge. One hand on each side of our leg. Let's hold it and count to ten. One. Two. Three.


A girl speaks up. "Ms. Amna. This hurts me."


Another boy says. "I am sweating. Why am I sweating?"


They both stop doing the splits.


An hour later, I drive back home and reflect. Kids this young are creating their relationship with pain for the first time. When their muscles are stretching, they feel pain and it feels different and uncomfortable for them. Even self-inflicted sweat feels strange.


How can I explain this to them? What is my relationship with pain? How do I feel about doing hard things?


Well, I have resisted emotional pain most of my early life. My coping mechanisms were television, food, and achievement. I am still an addict of productivity because it distracts me from feeling and thinking about the hard stuff.


Why?


Because I was taught to resist pain. To run away from it.


But now I know pain can be good for us. It teaches us. It is where the light enters.


Pain challenges us to grow. Our body is wise. If we trust it and listen to it, we wouldn't inflict unhealthy pain upon it.


After we feel through the pan and get to know it, we get to connect with our own deep truths. We get to realize who we are. And more importantly we get to create who we are.


So, next week when I return to dance class, the same group of three to four year olds run into the classroom. We stretch and I teach them how to do a split again:


One leg in front of the other. Back knee kisses the floor. Slide our legs down a rainbow bridge. One hand on each side of our leg. Let's hold it and count to ten.


A girl speaks up. "Ms. Amna. This hurts me."


This time I have a response. I say "That's great. When it hurts, you are getting stronger."


And now, eleven years later, all our students know this mantra well.


Our teachers say: "When it hurts, you are getting..."


They all shout in unison: "STRONGER".