Those that have practised yoga by attending any yoga class at any recognized yoga center, will have eventually noticed the pressure that (whether due to internal or external factors), presents itself, making the practitioner feel the need to accomplish postures of greater flexibility than they may be ready for. For example, in the forward bending posture known (in English) as “forward fold,” at first, the beginner is expected to bend forward, keeping the legs relatively straight, and allowing the torso and head to hang with the top of the head reaching down to the feet. As one hangs there, they begin to notice the weight of the upper body will draw the head nearer to the feet, thus stretching the hamstrings (back of the knees). While, that is the point of this particular posture, one must not force oneself painfully, or allow the body to assume any position that causes the body pain. If you were not practicing stretching, yoga, or any sport or exercise that stretches the body from an early age previously, your body will probably have developed with some resistance to full flexibility; That resistance is discomfort or even pain.
The better schools of yoga will rightly try to emphasize the need to not compete with others, not even yourself, and advise you to relax, going at a moderate pace. However, they also inadvertently contribute to the feeling of inadequacy by teaching students to “become one with the pain,” to ignore it. The problem is, there is a fine line between the pain threshold and simple discomfort. Experiencing some discomfort in life or in yoga, allows one to expand into new experiences and abilities. But experiencing pain can be… well, just painful! “No pain, no gain,” can also turn into, “Pain becomes greater pain.” By this I mean, you could cause serious short (or long) term physical problems for yourself by trying to do too much too soon.
For me, years ago I succomed to tha afformentioned “pressure” and found myself trying to prove flexibility to myself and others by forcing my body beyond discomfort, into the famous “full-lotus” position. I believe reptition of this posture eventually resulted in deterioration to the hip and pelvis region, which caused me a progessively increased amount of pain. MRIs and X-rays showed no visible damage but fortunately, (and ironically), I was able to heal the area through practice of other less strenuous yoga techniques. But I consider this a lesson learned.
Don’t push yourself beyond present ability going beyond discomfort, into pain. Doing so, may cause you to eventually abandon the wonderful and beneficial process of yoga as well. My advice is to pace yourself, do not worry about what you would like to be able to do, just do what you can now, gently bearing any discomfort- but also “listening” to and respecting your body by avoiding the experience of self-inflicted pain. This will also teach patience, and eventually you will be able to do the postures fully and completely. If you get injured, you may greatly delay or even completely inhibit the process, and that is not your goal. So remember, take it easy and enjoy the process. Read more in Rhythms of Reality.