I’ve always loved hiking.
There is something so fulfilling about accomplishing a long trek, especially when the destination lands you standing on a cliff edge or mountain peak; reaching that point where you can step no further and submit to doing nothing more than being present to the expanse before you.
Perhaps this is why I was drawn to yoga, it’s similar in that I can take my body to places where I can explore an edge.
Entering a pose, there is a point where my body naturally stops, where it meets some initial resistance, which I call the first edge.
Gradually, with time, my body will settle and I will be able to move into a deeper sensation for a slightly stronger edge. Finally, to move to a point where I am at my full edge—any more and it might be painful or unsafe, and my ability to stay present to the sensation and breathe fully would be hampered.
The edge, however, is not always a well-defined line, and sometimes we underplay or overplay the edge.
Our unique anatomies, personalities, egos and histories all play a part in how we arrive at the edge; and, yoga is great for revealing these patterns to us.
Some of us hold back and approach hesitantly, stopping ourselves before we reach the full edge. While others, might move so quickly or aggressively that we miss the boundary and land ourselves on the other side of the edge into potentially unsafe zones.
Only by moving slowly and paying attention moment-to-moment, can we arrive at just the right amount of edge to optimally stretch our limbs and limits, and reasonably challenge ourselves.
For those of us who have received a Phoenix Rising Yoga therapy session, we will likely be familiar with how, in addition to a physical edge, there is sometimes also an emotional edge that we need to learn to navigate.
I remember the first time I received a session after having my first baby. I’d been running on adrenaline with sleepless nights, and I carried overwhelming concern that this new little being wasn’t being fully attended to.
As a new mom it was easy to forgo thinking about myself, but when I closed my eyes and the practitioner had me notice my body, my breath, my thoughts and my emotions, I realized how distant my mind had been to my own needs, and how strongly my body had been calling for some self-care.
Feeling lost within myself, I had a strong sadness envelop me, a grieving of separation of self, which caused my eyes to well up with tears.
Within this moment I recognized there was potential for the dam to break, my body yearning to sob, but I also recognized I was at my edge, my emotional edge. I was not comfortable with a full break down sob in my yoga therapy session. And so I chose to take a deep breath and pause, simply absorbing where I was without moving deeper into the exploration.
Afterwards I wondered about my hesitancy to let go fully into my postpartum sadness and I realized much of what held me back was the fear of being so vulnerable in front of another person, a stranger nonetheless.
I know I’m not alone on this one—being vulnerable is scary, and in some cultures, taboo. Many of us have carried, from previous generations, the belief that holding “it” in and not burdening our woes onto another is the strong thing to do. (Which, intellectually, I find humorous, because in actuality, the real strength lies in bearing our real, raw selves.)
And the paradox here is that I, as a practitioner of yoga therapy (where I have seen many tears shed), have never felt burdened by witnessing another’s emotional release. In fact, I welcome it and feel honored in the space. But this doesn’t change the fact that I, too, have an emotional edge to maneuver. I’m working through this process myself.
The edge is a place that is neither comfortable nor painful—it is somewhere in between—just outside our comfort zone.
For some of us, learning where our physical edge lies is new and challenging, and for others it is the emotional edge that proves more elusive and daunting. Either way, it is that one step closer to the unfamiliar.
It can be scary at first, but as long as we step mindfully, and we take care of ourselves as we near the edge we will land at just the right spot, allowing us to view new heights and perspectives.
Then when we find our edge, we stay, at least for that moment, that day.
We take a look around, feel it and breathe it in.
This is where we want to be—uncomfortably stretched; perched precariously. It is here that we learn much about our personal limits and ourselves. The edge is the place where we grow and stretch physically, mentally and emotionally. So we visit our edge, and then we leave.
Knowing that the next time we return, the path will feel more familiar and we might just find ourselves stepping to new heights once imagined unreachable.
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Assistant Editor: Jes Wright/Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo Credit: In View Images