The edge: A sliver or a small part of a pose that we encourage our students to explore.
It’s well worth exploring. Learning how to differentiate between a challenge that will strengthen us and a challenge that may be too much is essential. This can improve our yoga practice and life. There is often richness (or limit or end range) at the edge: an increase of sensation, yes, but also awareness. This crystallization may be due to the danger we experience when approaching the outermost limits of our physiological capabilities.
When we are doing the full splits or the long plank poses, or when we stretch our legs as far as they can go and reach the limit of our strength, we may ask ourselves the most critical questions in our practice. Am I OK? Am I aligned the way I want to be? What am I feeling exactly where? Can I still breathe? What is the effect of breathing on the part of my body that I think the most intense?
These questions can be a way to determine whether you have enough sensation or if you want more. What would happen if you applied the same discernment in other phases of a pose?
We could miss out on valuable opportunities and information if we always go ahead like a destination-focused travelers. Sometimes, we should stay away from the extremes of a pose.
If we’re taking it slow or paying attention to a sensitive area, it might be a good idea to stay within a range of comfortable sensations. When we are at maximum capacity, it may be harder to adjust our position. Stretching muscles to the limit does not necessarily improve flexibility. The tightness can persist despite our best efforts. When we reach our edge, we may feel like we are running into a brick wall.
We could benefit from valuable information and opportunities if we are always focused on the destination as a traveler.
This approach could help release some long-held tension and push our edge a little farther away–or allow us to get to that edge more quickly. This approach helps release long-held tension and makes the edge of a pose a little farther away. Or, it could help us reach that same edge more quickly.
Focusing on the beginnings may also cause us to lose the desire for a pose that is as deep or as long as possible. An earlier stage is rich enough to stay in. It’s OK if we don’t go all the way to the edge. The pose isn’t what needs to be developed, but rather our awareness.
You can explore this shift by posing as usual and noticing your travel distance and how you feel. Then, restart the pose, focusing on muscular activation and alignment. Slowly move into the position, stop, and linger when you feel a slight stretch. Decide if, after a few breaths, you want to go deeper into the pose or if your sensation is enough.
This approach will be applied to the seated wide-legged fold. You can use it for any pose, such as paschimottanasana or firelog. Or you can try all the poses in any sequence.
You can warm up your hamstrings before you start by doing an activity you enjoy (such as this ” Morning Yoga Warm-up” or sun salutations such as These for Beginners or This more accessible version on the wall).
Noticing Your Usual Edge
If your spine is rounding, you can bring your hands behind your hips so that your body is at a slight back slant. You can also sit on a blanket or two to find more length. If your spine is rounded, place your hands behind your pelvis so that you are slanting backward. You can also sit on two blankets to gain more length. Fold forward as far as you can comfortably with your hands on your hips. Only come down to the forearms if you can.
What do you feel when you reach your edge? Which questions are pertinent to you? Am I OK here? Am I aligned the way I want to be? What am I feeling exactly where? Can I still breathe? What is the effect of living on the part of my body that I think is the most intense? Do I feel enough or want more here?
A Mindful Restart
Let’s start again. In a seated posture, spread your legs apart but not so far that you feel a stretch. Place your hands several inches (or even more) behind your hips to reduce the feeling of stretching and lengthen your spine. Press down on your fingers, palms, or fists while rooting down your sitting bones to elongate and lift your chest.
Give your legs more attention than you usually do. Your toes should be pointed upwards. Flex your feet and push down your heels. Try aiming your knees upwards as well. You can also point your toes away from your body and your heels toward your hips.
Take note of how you feel as you perform these actions with assiduity; pay attention to where you experience a feeling of engagement. Inhale and exhale deeply but slowly, and observe how your breathing affects your muscles and the length of the spine.
Finding the Origin of Sensation
Slowly moving and remaining connected to your full breath, try to find that first hint of stretching. You can walk your hands closer to your hips or along your side without losing alignment or engagement of your legs and feet.
You may not feel any stretch (in your inner thighs or back of your legs), but you can press your hands down, keeping them in place for the moment, to re-lift your chest. This will help you lean forward.
Only if there is no stretching here would you place your hands on the mat between your knees. It would help if you had the patience of an angler. Instead of forcing into a sensation, wait and see what hits you get. Enjoy the scenery as you do so.
Pause once you have found the start of a stretch. Sensitize everything you can. Recommit yourself to your feet and legs and your sitting bones. Breathe.
You may want to ask yourself: Am I OK here? Am I in alignment with what I want to be? What am I feeling exactly where? Can I still breathe? What is the effect of breathing on the part of my body that I feel the most intense? Do I feel enough or want more here?