December 23, 2012

Exhale into Your Edge.

Photo: Susan Currie

I once heard an old friend suggest to me, “Your horizon is much wider than your own vision.

We had been chatting about the concept of physical challenge when she tossed this gem my way. Maybe the words were her own, or perhaps she patched this suggestion of universal possibility together from some ancient teaching. Either way, after receiving her words, I experienced a dawn inside me.

For I am exactly that person whose horizon has been stunted for many years by my own narrow boundaries.

It’s rarely my tangible physical, intellectual or inspirational deficiencies that park me in my comfort zone. Repeatedly, rather, it’s that imaginary ceiling I impose upon myself. All it takes is a simple moment of awakening such as this for me to recognize my habit and consider how I might break on through. My ongoing practice of the ancient eight-limbed tradition of yoga quietly mirrors this pattern of mine as well—a classroom unto itself.

“Exhale into your edge.”

One of the most physically challenging and personally compassionate yoga instructors I know regularly employs this line in her teachings. Despite my level of fatigue when I hear them, strung together, these four words certainly extend a clever invitation. While prodding me to dig deeper and exert more in a physical capacity, the instruction simultaneously points out a gateway to a natural unfolding.

This choice of words does not demand something forced, as in a spin class where Kick it in!” or “Gimme some double time!” are common refrains. Rather, this call, while for me just as motivating, beckons the student to perhaps relax the resistance in some manner. It arrives concealed in a sacred tone. It’s less instinctive, more contemplative…encouraging a natural leaning in, if you will.

In fact, as a yoga instructor myself, I would argue that this alternative prompt is often better heard, yielding a more purposeful effort on the part of its recipient. Who can deny an invitation that involves breathing, or the splendor that surfaces from a long, slow exhale? The breath is quite tempting, and it naturally propels us to expand to new levels. I witness this regularly from all angles in the studio.

Understanding that we all emit the same light from very different lamps, I recognize the fact that the guy sitting beside me on the subway may respond to verbal motivation of another persuasion.

But I happen to fall for lines like, Exhale into your edge.” Such language hands me the reins, and my best tends to rise to the occasion.

Exploring the intensity of our speech and its impact on those around us seems a useful exercise off the mat as well. Can we all take a moment in our work or in our family environments and consider our choice of words? Perhaps accenting our dialogue with a handful of more relaxed verbs might invite others to rally from a more natural place. The perfect recipe for a collective movement that goes beyond our own individual boundaries could very well lie in blending more compassion into our directives. Less swagger, more soul.

Some say that life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Based on my own personal experiences, I absolutely concur. My endless doubts and self-inflicted ceilings will likely continue to constrict my moments of authentic living. Yet as I embrace and employ these directives, phrased and delivered skillfully by life’s teachers, I do sense a more relaxed horizon out there somewhere.




Editor: Jayleigh Lewis

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