Meeting the Edge in Time
“Consistent practice leads to changing perspectives.
An altered perspective leads to taking greater risks and
not just meeting but going into the edge.”
~ Heather Morton
While practicing the postures it’s popular to hear a teacher talk about meeting your edge. This is usually in reference to the place where you feel challenged and/or that elicits fear. It can also refer to the place where you are holding back. We may perceive our edges as the limit in which we can only physically bend. But what about internal edges? The places of fear and the areas we dislike, ignore, neglect and reject within ourselves?
These are the edges I am referring to. And because they are internal they are far more difficult to explore.
The edge really then can be understood in a number of ways. The main point from what I have understood with my teachers is that this is the place you need to stay. Moreover, it is not so much the external edge but the internal one we need to turn our gaze toward.
In teaching backbending and in particular the drop-back from standing into the wheel pose the edge or external limit is reached very quickly. In other words, it is such a challenging move for many students that fear and feelings of doubt surface rapidly. This is the internal edge and the place where it can be easy to give up. Looked upon from a different perspective, it can also become the perfect place to explore ‘the edge’ and our perceptions.
The Zen story about the overflowing tea cup reminds us how we need to shift our perspective. If the teacher keeps pouring tea into a full cup it will continue to overflow; there is no room for growth. The same is true when we go to a teacher with fixed notions or want to force the body into a prescribed shape with only an external viewpoint. Lacking an internal focus is like the tea that spills over the cup, onto the floor and into the sewer.
When your edge appears and you are faced with how to move beyond it, do you run? Or do you try to push passed it?
Forcing it to take place usually results in physically damaging the muscles. BKS Iyengar once wrote you cannot tell the knee to bend with the brain. While everyone wants to be able to do lotus it is not doable with the mind alone. Iyengar suggests in a very poetic way that’s it better to understand the intelligence of the knee; slowly removing its stiffness.
The limits we come across in practice whether in the back or the knee (the physical edge and mental one) can be understood as a relative point in time. It is subject to change
Of course, writing this is merely a bunch of words. How does it apply to actual practice? Here are a few ideas to work with. These are a few starting points from how to approach the standing pose into the wheel.
- Contract and relax the muscles of the buttocks and legs. This is one step of many that begins with the contracting and relaxing. It works better to hold the pose, breathe and contract followed by relaxing while breathing and isolating certain muscles over each other.
- Let yourself feel and think about the breath. Every move (whether it is big or small) is generated by the breath. Learning to “wait for the breath” and then combining with the body is challenging. This method will aid you in learning to stay longer without letting the mind direct the posture.
- Start to think of yoga as more than the flexibility of the body. It is about how our mind is a container of fluctuations. Moving deeper is not from the body alone but being with your energy and your breath.
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