by Jane Bahneman
Yoga instructors love to use cliché cues, with yours truly admittedly not immune to vocalizing these on occasion. You may have heard your favorite yoga teacher encouraging you to “find your edge” or to “breathe into your edge” at some point. I think now is the perfect time of year to pause and reflect – to take a deeper dive into what this “edge” really means for the yogi, both on and off the mat.
The way I like to describe it to my classes is that your edge is the place in a pose where you feel safe, yet are immersed in the sensations and experience of the pose. It is the place that demands your attention and breath in order to sustain the experience. It is at this edge that we start to feel: “Yikes! Get me the heck outta this pose” or perhaps “Watch out pose, I am gonna beat you even if this kills me”.
As we progress in our practice we become better acquainted with our edge, learning how to calmly approach it and observe what we find without judgment. We watch, curiously, to see if the pose invites us in further and if our deep breaths allow the posture to soften or strengthen us.
Forcing your way past an edge in a yoga pose almost always means our ego took over. It then becomes a place of gutting it out with sheer will, rather than an intentional exploration of our yet untapped potential of body and mind.
And finding our true possibility does sit just outside of resting in our everyday comfort zone. My personal yoga practice has transformed many times in twenty plus years. And my edge has changed equally as many times as the circumstances of my life have along this journey.
During periods of youthful sassiness, I pushed my edge in poses so much that my ego-driven party-trick postures led to some injuries. Those injuries, gifts in disguise, led me to explore restorative yoga, yin yoga, and to a deeper relationship with my daily meditation practice. I can admit that my edge off-the-mat in those younger years often reflected this energy – fiery and driven, and lacking balance.
And a darker time some years later, when my life off-the-mat was razor sharp, my edge in asana was met almost as soon as I rolled out my mat. My edge in these moments brought me literally into child’s pose to a place of surrender and observation. It is practicing this self-compassion that helped me recognize that finding both the strength and softness in any given moment is what creates resiliency.
Today, in the every-day in-between stuff we call life, my happy silly self has learned how to safely “play the edge” in almost every area of my life off-the-mat. My yoga teaches me how to immerse myself fully, to breath, to move into places that feel a little scary. It is when we learn to move gracefully, not launch recklessly, into our own power with humility, with intention and with the desire to explore “what if” that we really begin to align and tap into our potential.
Is it scary? Sure. My advice? Use your fear as a guide. Sometimes the greatest things in life are often the result of stepping forward, even when we are scared.
Join me on Dec. 18 for going YINside, as we learn first-hand how to embody the meaning of touching our edge in safe space.
“Going YINside” is also a great way to come home before the madness of Christmas week is upon us.