“Your skill in yoga has little to do with your degree of flexibility or where your edges happen to be. Rather, it is a function of how sensitively you play your edges, no matter where they are….The practice becomes one of be relaxed and willing at your deeper edges; and this isn’t necessarily easy.” Erich Schiffman
For some people starting new things seems to be a breeze. It appears that the adventurous spirit never leaves them. Whether it be travel to exotic places, career changes or responding to health challenges; all manner of change seems to fuel them and keep them energized and enthused about life itself.
For others, most of us probably, change is a bit pricklier. Resistances and self-limiting beliefs can derail our efforts to improve our situation from the start. This is true especially if change thrust upon us from outside influences. Change is definitely easier when we are its architect. So it is when we are seeking to change habits and behaviors around fitness, health and wellness. We can intuit for some time that the stress we are experiencing is not doing us any favors or our diet isn’t what it could be. Oftentimes it can be things like a doctor’s concern about some medical test result that finally gives us some measure of this in clear and immediate terms. Here, both our apprehension and motivation to change can escalate.
So many peoples’ interest in Yoga begin from this mix of internal and external forces. Their sense of the need to change can come from a more or less urgent place. Health concerns, wanting to feel younger, life crises and acute stress issues are just a few of the reasons for the initial impulse to contact someone like me to explore what Yoga or Yoga Therapy can offer. The concern and apprehension show up in many ways. I am not flexible at all”… I can’t sit still, my mind just keeps thinking.”, “I don’t have time for that” and similar statements are common, wistful “yes, but” objections by those who admit they can see the benefit and need to bring practices such as Yoga and Meditation to their life.
Of course these very deficits and limits are the place where many of us begin our journey in yoga. The good news can be that working at these apparent difficulties is not only the very reason why we might do yoga in the first place, they are also where the benefits and joy of our practice are to be found. As a side benefit, building upon successes in our practice and the mental and the physical and mental benefits of Yoga themselves may also bring back the confidence and sense of adventure that may have been lost over the years,
Working the physical practice of Yoga utilizing the concept of the “Edge” allows us a way to experience our Yoga practice as a metaphor for life. In doing so we understand that any limit approached consciously can lead to greater balance, growth and enlightened living.
In our practice main category of limits we experience are:
Anatomical limits: pertaining to muscle length or physical strength, experienced most immediately and concretely through individual muscle tightness or laxity, musculoskeletal pain, as well as the overall stability and weakness in our Yoga postures.
Physiological limits: Weak or compromised metabolic, respiration and other somatic processes. Experienced through the messages of burning muscles, shortened breath, fatigue or low energy and feelings of depletion.
Mental limits: manifesting as scattered attention, poor or rigid focus, anxiety, fear, doubt, anger, self aggression and frustration. Any unconscious reaction, even the positive experiences and emotions such as pride and bliss can limit our ability to experience the present moment in our time on the mat.
We meet all these forms of limits in some manner each time we do Yoga. With skillful practice, they will recede over time in response to our efforts as we build up the corresponding faculty.
To avoid the common pitfalls of Yoga practice, it is essential to understand that mental limits, particularly doubt, can be the most subtle and vexing hindrances to our practice. Paradoxically, these places where our individual mental limits exist are the places in which we can enrich our lives in ways beyond imagination.
Mental struggles in our practice both contribute to and are often a response to our movement into our anatomical and physiological limits. For example, anxious thoughts tighten muscles; the experience of weakness or breathlessness can reinforce fear or negative self-judgments. As products of our conditioned mind, mental limits arise anytime we move beyond our comfort zone and move into the “edge” of our habitual experience. They are our “knee jerk” thoughts, attitudes or feelings that arise in responses to unknown or uncomfortable experience. Unaware response to our mental limits can thwart us in our practice and rob us of the joy that we can receive from Yoga. At any point along the path failure to deal with all that arises when confronted with those “deserted areas of the mind/body” that we rediscover in Yoga practice can undermine motivation. In the worst case, this process leads us to sabotage efforts to transform and can defeat our Yoga practice altogether.
The antidote to this type of struggle is to be compassionate to these limits, frustrations and doubts as they arise; to be “relaxed and willing at your deeper edges”. We can then stay with the challenges of the Yoga pose we are in, or the vexing thought or emotion that challenges us in our sitting meditation. In due course it is possible to experience its release or transformation. With each occurrence we can become a bit more free, confident and adventurous in our practice. Over time and with practice all this becomes more seamless and we can be more able to work with challenges and changes more effectively on and off the Yoga mat or meditation seat.
To get started you can follow this link to find information on the individual and group Yoga classes I offer in the Guilford, Madison, Branford and New Haven and Woodbridge Connecticut areas. I specialize in employing Yoga and other powerful energetic, meditative and relaxation practices that offer non medical support and therapy to help with stress management and mitigating the physical and mental effects of long term stress.
For a free no risk consultation for answers to your questions or help deciding which services may best meet your needs please call me, Alan Franzi at (203)488-1700.