Finding My Edge

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By Sarah Henderson | Twitter: @sarahlowhen

“Find your edge,” the yoga teacher says in a calm, smooth voice. I explore my pose, feeling it through like Goldilocks … where is too much, where is too little? After a few breaths, I find the sweet spot and settle in, the place where I’m engaged, present, feeling more alive. I take a deep, free breath.

I am not in pain. Pain is an indication of danger, a sign the body is compromised and could become injured.

And I am “in” the pose … working the muscular and energetic patterns, not just passively putting my body into the instructed shape. I’m taking the pose and finding my right place in it.

Finding your edge in a yoga posture is a balance. It requires you to know your boundaries, to know where you’re doing good for your body and where you are not.

I can look to my left and see someone with more flexibility who seems to my jealous eye “deeper” into her pose. This can turn me towards pushing past my edge, veering towards pain and injury.

I can look to my right and see someone who is struggling in her pose, whose strength is less than mine. Like a proud peacock, I stretch my neck and pull my shoulders back. “Look at me,” the ego invites.

“Eyes on your own mats,” the teacher reminds us. “Your practice is YOUR practice, not someone else’s. Your edge will be different than the person next to you.”

I calm the peacock ego and the jealous inner monster. I again find my edge, focus my mind on gratitude by thanking my body for what it’s giving me, and settle into my breath.

***

Over the last two years, I’ve found myself struggling with a different kind of edge.

In the social, cultural, and political turmoil that has emerged, I have been working to understand what’s happening around me, what’s happening within me, to know where I should engage and with how much intensity, and to know where to back off and realize what’s right for someone else isn’t necessarily right for me.

I see marches and protests and letter writing campaigns and fundraisers and community gatherings and books and podcasts and bumper stickers and snarky T-shirts and media subscriptions and twitter feeds.

I see injustice. I see inequality. I see so many things in my culture that evidently were there before but I didn’t know it. Systemic racism. White supremacy. An unholy marriage of religion and politics. Corruption. Oppression. Profits over people. The criminalization of being poor, of being sick, of being brown.

The other day a friend asked, “How do we handle finding out that so much of what we’re taught about our country was a lie?”

I don’t know, but I think part of the answer lies on my yoga mat.

***

Finding your edge isn’t a simple process, actually. It involves discerning the difference between discomfort and pain. Discomfort is temporary, sometimes even necessary to finding your edge.

It also involves staying present, not checking out when things get long, tiresome, repetitive.

It involves realizing that sometimes, the edge of your past is not your edge of now. In 10 years of practice, there are poses that easily came to me in my 30’s that are no longer beneficial for my body. My edge for those poses is different now.

Conversely, there are poses I struggled with at the beginning of my yoga journey that now I readily access because of a deeper understanding of my body, the practice, how to find my place. My edge is further in and may be even further in the future.

I think about the shape of my life, as invited in the instructions given by my teacher, Jesus. To love God, to love my neighbor, to love the stranger, to love my enemies. To do justice, to love mercy, to walk humbly in partnership with God. Where is my edge here?

My edge almost always involves avoiding political arguments on social media. Is that wrong for everyone? No, but it isn’t the right fit for me.

My edge includes many calls and letters to my elected representatives. I share with them my hopes and dreams for a good and true America for all. Am I better than my friends who choose other forms of engagement? No, they are finding their own edges too.

There are places I dig in and places I back out.

I am listening and learning. Allowing my edge to grow. Understanding my own white privilege. Using my economic power wisely. Accessing my voice. Finding friends and communities who are listening and learning, too. Seeking teachers who are skilled and wise and know their stuff, who remind me to stay focused and honest.

***

At the end of class, the teacher will guide us to Savasana, final resting pose. We will lay on our mats and stop. There is no effort required. There is no edge. There is quiet, there is peace, there is unity in the room.

I dream of a day where we as a culture can rest together. Where we can support and accept each other and our differences, and know that what is unified in us is greater still.

But that day isn’t yet today. And so I continue to pursue my edge.

_______________

About Sarah:
Like many women, I wear a lot of hats. I’m a wife and a mama to three young people who both fill my heart with joy and help me see my flaws. I’m a yoga teacher who is enthusiastic about making the yoga mat accessible to everyone–kids, people with disabilities, older adults, people who think they aren’t flexible enough to do yoga, and the follower of Jesus that doesn’t yet know how yoga can be a powerful form of prayer. I’m a writer who explores hope and grief and gratitude in the everyday over at www.tellingagoodstory.com. When I have a moment to take off my many hats, I indulge my obsession with British television (where the hats are simply fabulous) or enjoy a cup of coffee (which I believe is proof of God’s love) on my porch under the Carolina blue sky in Charlotte, NC.

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