Monday, June 01, 2009

MPOW #19 - Exploring Your Edge

“If I never explore my limits, my bodymind will gradually tighten and become unconscious. If I regularly explore my limits in a caring and adventuresome fashion, I will expand and grow in a vital fashion. But if I try to push myself past where I am honestly able to go, I will no longer be practicing ‘yoga’ but instead will be practicing ‘greed,’ and I will probably be met by pain and disease. Stated simply, it is the difference between ignoring your self, making love to yourself, and raping yourself.” –Ken Dychtwald, Bodymind

To my great happiness, my yin yoga instructor Saiko has returned from her travels and is teaching yoga in Seattle again. She read the above quotation during a several minute (around five minutes, relaxing into poses distinguishes yin yoga from other types) hold of downward-facing pigeon pose (Adho Mukha Kapotasana). I was stretching into my right hip, trying to maintain the exact right spot and hold there, and this quotation brought me to mindfulness about my relationship to my limits, my edge.

In my physical yoga (asana) practice, I tend to find that I err on the side of pushing the edge to a spot that is aggressive against my muscles. In other aspects, I tend to err on the side of ignoring the edge. Dychtwald's wisdom need not be true for physical yoga alone, as the sanskrit word yoga means "discipline" or "alignment with divinity". So, substitute in any word for an activity or virtue with "yoga" and see where you fall in your explorations. The sanskrit word yoga is often translated to mean "action".

"If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much space." - The slogan on one of my favorite teenage tees.

Mindfulness Practice of the Week - Explore Your Edge

If you have yoga experience, I recommend trying this from pigeon pose. This is a challenging pose and can lead to knee damage if done incorrectly and you push yourself. So if you have never done it before with the help of a yoga instructor, try something simpler like Balasana child pose (toes together, knees on the ground shoulder width apart, butt on your heels with your arms stretched forward.

Tips from the WikiHealth site: (pigeon pose)
  • Make sure to stay focused on the breathing as this pose can be intense. If you can, imagine that the breath is opening up space in the hip and releasing the tightness.
  • It is not unusual to experience a full range of sensations and emotions, from naseau to sadness and anger. Allow whatever your body is experiencing to move through you and stay connected to your breath.
  • It is estimated that the hips store physical and emotional build up/memory. Thus, it is common to experience a strong physical/emotional reaction when we are in the process of opening them.

From the pose, say the quote aloud in your mind and contemplate the ways in your life in which you are on the edge, avoiding the edge, and pushing past the edge. Don't berate yourself for missing the edge, just note it and calmly see if you can bring yourself back to the edge. Remember this as an exercise of loving yourself. Be tender, be gentle, be thorough.

My Experience

As Saiko spoke these words and I focused on finding the edge, I noticed a shift in my hip muscles releasing and allowing me to sink much more deeply into the pose. I have known people to hold a lot of emotion in their hips and cry through and after pigeon pose. I never experienced that myself, though in this session, learning to love myself through yoga allowed me to physically open along with the opening of my symbolic heart.

A meditation this weekend helped me realize that I had gone astray from the path of loving myself. Realizing this was all it took to get back on that path. I have again been able to turn off the mind and find some good rest. It reminds me of How I Learned to Take a Break from Analyzing and Start Loving Myself.


  1. Excellent blog, Ed. Great observation about yourself, and your practice of mindfulness. We all have to be reminded about the "Edge" sometimes. So great to meditate with you too.

  2. Thank you, Saiko. And thank you for Saiko's students who have been reading my posts. I love the yin yoga community here in Seattle. And my heart is open to the universal yin yoga community. We all help and support each other so much every time we get on the mat.