How do you know when you are at your edge in a pose? In other words, how do you know when to stop?

Sometimes we can go further in a pose than we actually should – going to deep, too quickly, even at the expense of our own good.

So what does it feel like to be at the edge? The place where you are experiencing not just transformation in your body, but the right kind of transformation – the kind that promotes your health and well being – what in Sanskrit we would define as having a Sattvic practice?

Here is the answer I have come up with:

Imagine you are standing in front of a good old, home-made, wood-burning fire.

You don’t want to stand so far away that you don’t feel the heat at all. In Sanskrit this would be called a Tamasic state. It is a place of inertia, where no transformation or movement is happening.

You also don’t want to stand so close that you’ll be in the flames getting burned. In Sanskrit we would call this a Rajasic state. It is a state of indulgence or too much, a desire for too much too quickly, a path towards burn out.

So what about practicing at that place, which is just back from the fire, which you might be able to hold your hand near for a few seconds before it becomes too hot? It is my experience that this too is a Rajasic way to practice and will lead to injury and exhaustion rather than balance and deeper awareness.

It is that place near the fire that you can stand in front of for a long time, feeling the warmth, and watching the dancing flames that is Sattvic.

This warm place is a helpful metaphor for the degree to which it is best to practice yoga. To practice and live in a Sattvic way means to be on a slow and steady course towards enlightenment. It is not my understanding that we suddenly one day become enlightened beings. But rather by the way that we practice yoga and live our lives, at the right distance from the fire where we are neither too hot nor too cold, we slowly begin to see the world differently and over time we begin to act in the world differently; we begin to transform from human beings who react into enlightened beings who respond with equanimity to life’s tribulations.

It is my experience that the longer I hold a pose for the longer lasting are the effects. Or, when practicing Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga –  it isn’t that I am holding one pose at a time, but I am in it for the long haul, and the poses are all linked together so that there is a seamless flow, and it is nice to think of staying at this warming distance from the fire throughout the entire practice rather than moving to the point of intense heat for a few breaths and then back away  in-between the postures.

Therefore, I recommend defining your edge as that same degree of sensation of warming near a fire when you are practicing your asanas.


About Joyce Englander

I teach weekly yoga classes in New York City, which focus on moving mindfully and gracefully with the breath. I believe that learning yoga is similar to learning a language, and the more you are around it the more fluent you become. This blog is an opportunity to share my thoughts and re-visit lessons from class; to create a bridge for students to translate their classroom experience into real life. I am interested in how practicing yoga can help to improve people's lives and reduce needless suffering.
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2 Responses to Edge

  1. Gemma! says:

    Hello Joyce!
    Gemma here! How are you? i am off to YV shortly for my private with Eva! Can you believe? No, I am not an ashtangi, yet, but she has been helping me through some stuff that came to a head with my practice last fall.
    think of you v/often. would love to catch up. do you have the same #? i will give you a call. i want to hear about your life!
    you could check out http://www.echoyoga.com, if you have a moment.

    • Hi Gemma,
      It’s so nice to hear from you. I’d love to hear about the work you are doing with Eva. I admire you for your constant research and flexibility to keep answering the questions that arise for you in your practice. Your web-site looks wonderful. Very clear and inspiring. I have a New York number, 917 area code, do you have this one? It will be nice to hear from you. Love, Joyce

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