Coming up against your edge

You’re likely to hear or to have heard this phrase many times in a yoga class: ‘Find your edge.’ So where is your ‘edge’ exactly? I would say it’s that place where you start feeling uncomfortable. Where you’re ‘gently’ being persuaded to become present. Your muscles, both those of the body and of the mind are being stretched in new ways. You can hear Dorothy saying: ‘I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto.’ Yes, welcome to the very frontier of your comfort zone. What do we do when we’re in this place of extreme agitation, irritation, fear or discomfort? Our practice offers us a safe place from which to explore this unchartered territory. We can use these lessons we learn in our yoga practice and apply it to our lives.

Case in point. I went on a little bicycle trip for 3 days this week in the countryside of Catalonia to Ripoll and Olot. On the second day, I had to cycle uphill for 7 km. To put you in the picture, I haven’t really spent any serious time on a bicycle, since my impromptu Cape Argus 109 km Cycle Tour in 1998. You could say I came up against my edge in a big way after the 2nd kilometer going up. I had to get off my bike and push it up the mountain for the next 5. I just couldn’t do it. My legs felt like jelly, it was hot, my heart was pumping in my chest and my breath was at this point not yogic. Closer to hyperventilation. I couldn’t appreciate the beauty of my surroundings; I was way out there in the Wild West of my comfort zone. And I had to remind myself of something I repeat often in class, really it’s the most basic of the pranayama practices,¬†which is to just focus on the breath, on inhaling and exhaling through the nose. To come back into the moment and override the crazed panic-induced mental state that says you’re going to self-destruct if you don’t stop doing what you’re doing right now!

Needless to say, I made it. But it reinforced for me in a big way how our minds have this incredible power of setting boundaries for us. Measuring out our little gilded cage in which we feel we can cope with life. And how it is really important to go against this urge to live a so-called ‘safe’ life. If we don’t challenge our minds and our bodies, we don’t have the opportunity to grow and expand spiritually and it’s impossible to live our lives to the fullest.

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