It must have been around 15 years ago that I learned about satya, honesty, specifically how it relates to practice, but I can still hear my teacher talking about it. That it is equally important to know when to push and when to back off and to be honest with yourself about it. I got into yoga because I heard it was so physically hard, (at the power studio that raised my practice it was so physically hard, really, really hard. I’ve never since taken a class that brutally challenging), and I had an exercise compulsion and I was like BRING IT ON. For the next however many years, I would never be in plank and consider whether I wasn’t all in, whether I wasn’t coming to my edge, because I always was. I practiced asana with so much burning zeal that I could’ve burned the studio down with my tapas. I had a lot of garbage to burn.
1.21 the goal is near for those who are supremely vigorous and intense in practice, namely I burned that garbage and found benefits of yoga relatively quickly for my efforts. I could bear any amount of pain and struggle because I believed it would make me free.
Today, I did a class from my old teacher in the park with my friend. We were both wobbling and laughing about it and I said, “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.” And she said, “But if they do, that’s okay, too.” And that sparked this revelation. I could hear my own self saying it’s okay to fall down because then you know you were at your edge: the edge of balance, the edge of intensity, the edge of a cliff. And I was right, it is okay to fall down. Baron Baptiste explains: “The edge is where we come up right up against ourselves and what we can do and be. It is the boundary between where we are and where we grow, the place of comfortable discomfort, where all the growing and healing happens. The edge is the point in every pose when you are still within your capacities but are challenging yourself to go just a little bit farther. Stepping up to this edge and daring to leap is how you break through and thus break with old ways of being.“
Your edge in a pose is when it’s challenging you but not too much. It’s uncomfortable, so it’s hard to stay sometimes and feel it and breathe into it. We don’t generally like discomfort. There’s also pushing it too far, which is how I ended up with overtraining syndrome, of course I didn’t get that from doing too much yoga. I realized that suddenly, after years of intensity and pushing, I’m not on the other side, I’m backing off too early, I’m shying away from the discomfort and exposure of the edge.
2.46 sthira sukam asanam or, your practice should be steady and joyful.
We’re not here yet in chapter two, but I wanted to bring it up because it fits in so well. In each pose, we need to touch every piece, to use all of ourselves, and not overuse any part. This sutra is about the balance between strength and softness. You should never be trying too hard, but you should never be slacking. As much as you’re full of strength, you should also find sweetness. This is another one of my favorite sutras, for yoga and for life.
I was compelled to listen to Baron Baptiste’s book while I was driving today, which was serendipitous because of course he’s all about the edge. Here’s the highlights from his eight ways to practice going to your edge:
You’re either Now Here or you’re Nowhere.
This is one of my favorite quotes, my old teacher used to say this and I hadn’t realized it was a Baptiste thing. But it’s so true, and it goes to back to what we’ve been talking about the last couple days, about attention and intention.
Grow or Die
I used to think it was delightfully dramatic that Kilian named his book Run or Die, like those are the only options. Like if he doesn’t run he would die. But the way Baron explains it is, if you’re not growing, you’re in stagnation, and if you’re not doing anything then all you’re doing is dying. And he’s right, if you’re not actively pursuing growth, you’re just not doing anything but slowly marching towards your death. When I think about approaching asana from this perspective, a perspective of growth, it sure is easier to stay.