Very often, even as I an teaching some very specific, and at times challenging, technique or practice in a Yoga class I will balance the instruction with and invitation to mindfully “play the edge” of your limits in your practice. This certainly does not mean moving full speed ahead. The “edge” in any moment is determined by the student. Though commitment, effort and focus in any discipline needs to be nurtured to remain consistent and strong, there is no hard and fast rule of what to actually do in any individual moment of your Yoga practice. Sometimes we are moved to work less intensely to restore a body/mind depleted by stress or fatigue. Other times our energy level or goals lead us to a more active and athletic approach to practice. In any case, for our time to be spent in the true practice of Yoga, I believe the most exciting and useful benefit of Yoga can be to cultivate a deepening sense of compassionate presence and awareness.
In our physical practice of Yoga, if we struggle against a limit of strength or flexibility we risk bodily injury or increasing frustration in our progress. Yogis recognize that one key value for practitioners to cultivate in Yoga is the observance(Yama) of “Ahimsa”- non-harming or non-injury to self and others. As we apply this virtue to ourselves in our practice we can stay safe in the physical work; and come to understand its deepest significance in the greater scope of our lives. However if we habitually back off every discomfort that results from a fear of the unfamiliar; we can cheat ourselves of the benefits of greater strength, stamina and mental presence in the any Yoga pose and in our lives.
Responsibly practicing the Yama of “Satya”–truth in thought or deed, when applied toward ourselves can guide us in this regard. The actual effects of the choices we make in each moment of our practice will tell us whether we have been truthful to of our aims and intentions. When applied to life this discovery alone is transforming!
All this gives us new tools for our the choices we make in each moment on and off the Yoga mat. Our advancement in our Yoga practice becomes less about some physical attainment; but instead is measured increasingly by how well we are able to explore and adjust within the poses. This new paradigm invites us to now seek and expand upon an emerging clarity and grace that helps us skillfully choose a course that takes us to a place of greater comfort, presence and balance. We open heatedly receive our experiences as it is, without clinging to any external image of what should be happening we can be more relaxed able to seek that next moment and whatever it may bring . Difficult and imperfect as this process is, it is a powerful way to transform our lives at the ”edge” that is inherent within each new and challenging life experience.