In yoga, we often talk about going only to our ‘edge’ – too little and we’re not pushing ourselves enough.
Too far and we risk injury.
Pose by pose, our edge varies.
Sometimes, our edge changes due to injury or illness.
Sometimes, it changes and we don’t even notice for months – like me with this Lockdown.
Not teaching, doing my yoga in the hallway each morning but being super gentle with myself meant that I stopped doing some of the things that were so natural, I’d never even consciously thought of them as practices.
The hallway is narrow so I’ve been working almost exclusively with the sagittal plane (front and back movements rather) as that what allows the mountain view I so adore.
Also, not being able to swim in the pool (and use the float for my knee for several lengths) meant that my usual way of sitting Half Lotus or cross legged for much of each day when at the laptop vanished as it hurt the knee!
Even Tree pose is a struggle.
Paying closer attention
I noticed about a month ago so have come back to a more physical morning practice (and moving the mat to accommodate the whole practice) as well as adding in Sleep Yoga most nights because so much of the sequence is helping me regain that flexibility.
Apart from the physical benefits (I’m sitting cross legged again and while it’s far from comfortable and Half Lotus isn’t yet available to me, it’s far far better than it was), my now twice a day practice is helping me stay more grounded during quite a turbulent time emotionally.
What’s really weird is that I can do cartwheels again (after a few years of not due to shoulder injuries) with no problem.
I can also hold my big toe while standing and extend each leg outwards (one at a time) – not as far as before but still, this is something I only started doing in my 40s (had tried once at a class in my 20s and failed spectacularly).
While I’ve had plenty of injuries over the years and am also used to flexibility, stamina and strength fluctuations with a chronic pain conditions (endometriosis) not being able to sit cross legged impacted my sense of identity.
Soothing self talk
The most challenging aspect of turning my daily usual practice into yoga therapy on myself was my self talk.
I still keep having to remind myself to speak kindly to myself and not overdo things but instead, slowly, gently and with curiosity, notice each morning and evening, where’s my edge today?
Our edge in other situations can be even more challenging. On the yoga mat, we’re more used to being mindful (typing this, I remember how my morning meditation used to be in Half Lotus but has evolved to stretching across to Rainbow MagnifiCat and holding paws with her. Great for the soul but clearly not for the hips.)
Being physically unable to sit how I used to sit and (just for a moment) seeing if I COULD force things made me laugh both with pain and the realisation that it’s so so tempting to waste time and energy wishing things were different.
As if pure WILL can make it different.
How often do you argue with reality? Maybe about something you can no longer do physically? Financially? Socially? In another way?
You might find this piece from Natural Health (an interview with Tara Brach on Radical Acceptance) of interest.
What are you struggling to accept today?
Are you arguing with reality about it or accepting the situation and figuring out each next best step?
What feels more more energising?
What would it look (or feel) like to stop wishing _________________ were somehow different?
What might help you soften your attitude to it?
On the yoga mat, we can consciously send some loving energy with each breath, directing it to any areas of tension, tightness and pain (again, working with our edge means not doing anything that causes pain but sometimes, we’re already IN pain. You can get in touch if you’re curious about working with this in a yoga therapy session).
Off the mat, we can do the same. Congratulate ourselves for pausing and noticing the tension or whatever other feeling is most prominent. And we can consciously send the situation some Loving Kindness (Metta) or simply a blast of Good Will (in psychosynthesis terms).
And for many of us (especially those with trauma histories where we’re used to enduring what hurts) THAT will be another edge – years, even decades of attempting to berate ourselves into change means this kinder, gentler approach can feel exceedingly challenging.
But it’s so worth it, I hope you’ll experiment with it.
Feel free to email me – firstname.lastname@example.org – to let me know how you’re getting on.