No doubt as a direct result of the company I keep, articles on yoga crop up in my Facebook feed fairly often. The quality varies–yoga websites, like most of the internet, aren’t immune to clickbait–but yesterday morning, my friend and fellow teacher Shannon posted a gem of an article about alleviating back pain. However, the article included a definition of a concept referred to in yoga as “the edge,” and one line in particular caught my attention: the edge is “the fine line between self-destruction and self-improvement.” (Ken Dychtwald in Living Yoga, as quoted by Yoga International).
And in a physical practice, that line is fine indeed. In the Western world, and especially in the realm of competitive sports, the dominant motto is quite often “No pain, no gain.” During my years as a competitive swimmer, I took this statement a bit too deeply to heart, pushing past the point of self-improvement into overtraining and exhaustion. I can remember a few instances shortly after I began practicing asana when only youth and luck saved me from a dislocated shoulder, before I began to recognize and respect my body’s limits.
More difficult to find, I feel, is “the edge” in life off the mat. We all know, intellectually, that when we royally screw up, the healthy response is “This is my fault, but I WILL learn and do better in the future”–but how often do we place the blame elsewhere or else convince ourselves we’re worthless because of our mistakes? When we’re driven, it’s natural to begin working harder and longer, but how often do we fail to notice when that extra effort starts translating into exhaustion instead of improvement? Conversely, do we notice when we swing too far in the opposite direction, when healthy self-care begins to turn into overindulgence or sloth?
“The edge” challenges, but does not injure. As the article states, “To avoid your edge ensures stagnation, while going beyond it can cause harm.” Can we aim to explore our personal edge, both on and off the mat, whereever it may be?
*My apologies if the Aerosmith song “Living on the Edge” is now running through your head–it was stuck in mine while I wrote this! 😉