March 29, 2012

Are You “Playing the Edge” in Your Yoga Practice?

Photo: Stock.xchng

What does it mean to go to “the edge” in yoga? Should you care?

It must’ve been about 7 years ago while I was living in Boston that I decided to check out a new yoga studio that had recently opened. The class was listed as Power Yoga (hot yoga), and although I am not a huge fan of this style of yoga, I was curious and decided to try the class.

In spite of my late arrival at the studio, I was greeted warmly by the receptionist who registered me and then I quietly snuck into the back of the class, which was already in progress.

As a yoga teacher, I can be very critical of other teachers. I have my standards—and you had better live up to them! This experience of taking a power yoga class at a new studio was mostly unmemorable, but one thing is etched into the hard drive of my memory. The class was taught by a young man who talked of recently discovering yoga and how it had changed his life for the better. He was learning to slow down and let go of some of his “Type A” tendencies.

One thing really irked me, though. This young pup of a yoga teacher told us that we should go to the “edge” in every single posture. Hello? Did I hear that correctly? Regardless of my age or my physical condition or my history of injuries or what I did last night—you’re gonna look me right in the eye and with a straight face, tell me to go to the “edge” in every single posture no matter what?

Based on everything I know to be true about yoga, this young, clearly inexperienced and wet behind the ears yoga instructor was dead wrong on this one and I dare say his approach is a bit on the dangerous side.

So let me explain what is actually meant by finding your edge in yoga.

Understanding “the edge” and understanding how to work with it in your practice, can be a useful tool to have in your arsenal.  But please, if you ever hear a yoga teacher tell you that you must go “to the edge” in every posture, please take it with a grain of salt.

Here is my definition of “the edge” in yoga:

The edge is that point in the posture where you are feeling intense sensations and it feels as if you are being challenged to the max!  If you go past this point, you may actually injure yourself.

If you want to advance in the physical part of your yoga practice, you need to explore and learn how to find your edge in each posture. This is very different than blindly “going” to the edge. We are talking about, exploring it, learning about it and becoming aware of it. You may have also heard this referred to as playing the edge.

So what do we mean by “playing the edge?” Playing the edge is like taking little nibbles and bites. Getting a taste of the edge and then maybe backing off a bit, depending on your physical and emotional state on any given day. On some days, you may feel like going a bit deeper and possibly going past your edge. Sometimes by intelligently “playing the edge,” it can end up taking us to a deeper level where we find our new edge.

Photo: Stock.xchng

“Playing the edge” is definitely a good tool to have in your yoga tool box, but please treat the edge with reverence and respect. We certainly do not want to take the edge for granted or idly go to the edge in every single posture. It’s a bit like “the boy who cried wolf.” If we do it too much, it loses it’s meaning.

Save and savor the edge for those times when the body, mind and spirit are ready and willing to ramp it up a notch, and dive into unknown waters. Within these unknown waters, there may be a revelation.


Editor: Kate Bartolotta

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