Stretching hurts. And that’s a good thing.

I had an epiphany the other day, in a Pilates class of all places. We were doing a series of stretches (one of my least favorite things) and I was surprised by how much they hurt. Not as pain exactly but in a pushing-my muscles-til-they-snap kind of way. Which was exactly the point. According to the instructor, an effective stretch isn’t supposed to feel good while you’re doing it (contrary to what I had thought). It feels good after you’re done. When you’re looser and more open.

Stretching is an intentional move that makes you push through temporary discomfort to get to a better place and over time build the necessary flexibility that reshapes the body and strengthens the core. It’s not meant to be a feel-good move but a transformative one.

And then it struck me. To become our strongest selves, to re-shape our minds and support our emotional core, we need to reach for the same spiritual looseness and openness to behavioral change. To push ourselves beyond our comfort zones and do the mental work that breaks through the inflexible thinking that keeps us stuck in old, self-sabotaging habits. Whether it’s changing how we think about food, body image or our own self worth, it pays to stretch through the pain to greater strength and resilience. Even though it’s hard and even when it hurts.

In yet another workout (solidcore), there’s a sign on the floor that says “remember why you came to class…keep pushing.”

In other words, don’t forget to stretch.

How do you plan to stretch yourself in 2015?