The Edge.

In yoga, there is a lot of talk about the edge. Getting to it. Finding it. Working with it.

I can distinctly remember being in my first classes, listening to all the deep breathing and rolling my eyes to myself about the so-called edge. At that point in my yoga practice, I was lucky if I could stand in crescent without falling. I had no concept of the edge - my focus was twisting my rigid body into the asanas.

The edge is a boundary - sometimes real and sometimes self-created. It involves mind and body. It is usually the point where you stop. Think of it in terms of abdominal exercises. There are the first few crunches, where you feel something. The next 5 or so crunches, where it hurts. And then there is the burning - an on-fire aspect to the crunches that come next. This is the point where we normally give in and quit.  This is the edge. The idea is to try and move beyond it - to be present in the uncomfortable place where you are unsure of your own strength. Playing at the edge ultimately makes us stronger. We find the edge and go further - a little bit at a time.

For a while now, I have been fairly cognizant of my edge in a given practice. I stare at it, play with it, make innuendos towards getting there or beyond it. I know when I'm close because I lose my breath or one of my limbs starts to shake.

And then I started doing Forrest Yoga. And I met the edge for real. This past month has been about exploring how I feel about Forrest, beginning with the Ana Forrest master class I took in early January. What started as an interesting experiment with a different style of yoga has turned into a real love affair. Because Forrest is a very structured practice (and I want to use the term structured, not strict), I feel that it is easier to be pushed to the edge. Poses are held for longer periods. There is no music. It is you, your mind, your body, and the souls with you in the room. It is a lot of time to be present with your body. And when you are truly present with your body - you really feel. It's scary and unnerving. It shakes you a bit. But because it is also an incredibly compassionate practice, there is a lot of support when you are struggling at the edge.

In other styles of yoga, the focus can be on doing what feels good to you in a space that is more creative. This is very important - and there is definitely a place for this in my life. What I enjoy about Forrest, however, is the space to let go within a structured practice and have someone guide you to a focus on what is best for your body in that moment.  It is isn't always about freedom, but it is about strength. And in all this deep movement, there is a true comfort.

This evening in class, I made some great breakthroughs at the edge. Peter Crowley (who also teaches my fave Freedom Joy class) has an incredible ability to give deep personal assists to individuals without losing his connection with the whole class. Peter has such a kind demeanor - warm and welcoming. As a yoga teacher, he is confident, compassionate, mindful of different levels, and patient.

Today we were holding side angle with a bind. Side angle is a fairly basic pose. So I settle in as I always do - to my habitual point. And then I feel Peter's assist behind me and a soft but strong voice asking me to let go of my neck and trust the strength in my legs. And in the middle of trying to breathe into the burning and shaking in my legs, gripping the earth with my toes and feet, and willing my body to be strong from the core and not from my neck, I feel the edge and stay with it. I let go of the fact that Peter has to be able to feel my legs shaking in order to help. And suddenly, I'm with my body, so I can feel the fibers pushing and connecting to each other and to the floor. And when we leave the pose, I feel my body relax, and my breath slows to normal again. True release - not just out of the pose, but out of my head.

It was a moment of full breath that left me breathless. A moment to honor the fact that my life is a little scary right now, and that in this current period of transition, I may not be able to control a lot of things in my life.

But I can hug the ground and be strong. I can find the edge - and move beyond it. And that's a pretty amazing thing.

-Grateful Yogi