Tip Tuesday: Playing With Your Edge in Yoga

Tip Tuesday is a weekly feature where I offer a few yoga tips that have worked for me in the hopes that they can help you too.

The Edge (but not the edge in yoga)
Photo credit: (AP Photo/Robert E. Klein)

Frequently in yoga classes, an instructor will talk about “playing your edge” in a yoga pose. But what does this really mean?

A great explanation comes from yoga philosophy. In the Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali, the second sutra says, “Sthira sukham asanam.” Loosely translated this means, “The posture [should be] steady and comfortable” (Translation: Georg Feuerstein). In yoga, you seek to find that juicy point in the pose where you’re making an effort and challenging yourself, but not pushing yourself beyond the edge of where the breath gets laborious and the pose becomes painful.

Playing your edge is a skill. We have the tendency to vacillate between both extremes: pushing ourselves too hard, sometimes to the point of injury or bailing out amidst a challenging pose. Mentally it can be tough to tell, especially when you’re habituated to either (or both) of these patterns.

One of the questions Ana Forrest received at the Yoga Journal Conference was: “How can you tell if you’re going deeper in a pose because you are embracing the challenge or if it’s just your ego wanting to push further? How do you know when you’re coming out of a pose because you’ve reached your edge or if you are merely avoiding the intensity?” Ana responded that is a process. “As you start getting in better touch with feeling into the body, you begin to discern the difference between where your brain wants to go and where your body thinks it should go. There will be some trial and error as you learn where you may go too far in a pose and tweaking and then you know that was too much or going out of a pose and realizing you were avoiding the intensity.”

So be edgy in your yoga practice. Be cutting edge. Just don’t “edge” your bets.