One of the elements of my practice that I focus on enhancing and sharing with students is the ability to “play the edge”…but what does this mean?? In its simplest form, playing the edge is finding that point in a pose that is a perfect balance between self-effort and surrender. That is, there’s enough happening in the body so that our mind has something to work with but that there is still enough spaciousness so that breath and energy can continue to flow. The edge is not a static point, it fluctuates, it evolves and therefore takes constant refinement and recalibration.
Our practice of yoga is an opportunity to practice self-love and compassion. When we move into a pose slowly and with total awareness, we have an opportunity to become aware of sensations in our body. The sensations that we experience are our body speaking to us. Our bodies have a lot to tell us! Our biography becomes our biology and everything we have ever experienced in our lives in stored in our cells. When we come to the mat, we have an opportunity to retrieve this information, information that we have stored as tension, tightness and dis-ease. If we allow ourselves to stay present to what we experience, to listen intently to these sensations, we can use our deep rhythmic breath to clear out some of this debris. Every exhaling breath is an opportunity to let something go, to surrender and soften a little more. Working in this way we begin to have a conversation with our bodies in that language that is not man-made and in this way our practice becomes pure medicine.
Allowing ourselves to be present for each movement, for each breath and for each sensation allows us to be guided by what we experience and in this way we work intuitively. We are all intuitive, we are born that way, but if we don’t listen to our intuition, then the voice of our intrinsic genius becomes quieter and quieter. Our practice is an opportunity to reconnect and allow ourselves to be guided by our own genius. When we meet our edge, we have come to a doorway. We stop and we breathe and wait for the doorway to open. This doorway is a portal, a portal for change.
Often times we can miss this portal. If are impatient and focused on achieving a certain pose, we are working from the linear (ego) mind. The linear/ego mind will always try to take you into a pose or variation of a pose that your body may not be ready for and this is when we begin to struggle. We struggle by forcing the body and trying to subdue it into a projection the ego mind has created (even though you may be screaming on the inside!), we struggle with the breath, it becomes shallow and ragged and we struggle with reality, we are not in the present moment accepting what is. Practicing in this way, our progress will plateau and we soon loose the joy of our practice….this is when most people wander away.
Sometimes we are not ready to change, we may not have developed the will and courage that it takes to stay present for those sensations and we simply tune out…the mind wanders away and we are no longer present. Or perhaps we are just not ready to let go of the armour that we have created around ourselves, there can be an element of fear that we need to face to let go of an identity we are clinging to.
But you know what, that’s OK, that’s the journey and it’s why we call it practice. We practice and refine and practice and absorb and practice and integrate….and in this way our practice becomes a beautiful and wonderous journey or self-discovery, exploration and self-knowldege.
Written by Claudia Piazza
Claudia is a leading Brisbane yoga teacher who also specialises in Kahuna Bodywork through Radiant Heart Healing.
Claudia can be found at all three of Inna Bliss Yoga studios in Brisbane as the esteemed Studio Manager. She currently teaches Yin, Beginner, Meditation and Vinyasa yoga at Bulimba, Camp Hill & Wynnum.
Your Physical Body is a Spiritual Thing
Recently, a friend of mine who is in a daily meditation practice, commented on how the early morning chill was making it harder for her to stay in her practice. She was freezing and finding it hard not to be distracted by that. I totally sympathise. I hate being cold and I’m a British girl – you’d think I’d be used to it. My lack of tolerance for shivering skin and frozen bones was indeed a not insignificant factor in what eventually drove me to sunnier climes here in Queensland.
Here’s the thing. When I prepare to meditate, I give my physical needs the highest priority.
Now that may sound odd to people who have been trained to think that meditation is about putting up with or focussing away from physical feelings and that a sign of having ascended high in the spiritual hierarchy is turning away from one’s needs, ignoring them, deleting them or somehow magically transcending them. Maybe those ideas come from those cool images of people walking on hot coals as if dancing on a feather-cloud or ideas of meditation that come from celibate men who lived in monasteries thousands of years ago whose whole practices revolved around ignoring their bodies.
I was once in a practice of wholly ignoring my body. It wasn’t a yoga or meditation practice it was just a habit I had got into of shaming my body for having needs and feelings. When I was exhausted, I pushed on through. When I was hungry or thirsty, I asked myself to wait until I had achieved a list of self -made demands disguised as “tasks” before I would allow myself to eat or drink. When I was in pain, I told myself to suck it up and stop being a wimp.
And the thing was, I was in pain a lot. I was exhausted a lot. As time went on, my body had a growing and extended list of needs and concerns, roughly equal to the extent of the list of things I did to ignore it.
Then one day, having whispered to me politely to ask for some support, and then a little more loudly and urgently in a begging voice – please help me out here – my body eventually yelled at me so that I could deafen my ears to it no more. I was diagnosed with MS and from then on, it wasn’t as if I had any choice but to start looking after my body, because I began to realize what an important part of my being it was.
Like anybody and anything we care about, our bodies deserve loving attention. They deserve our care and concern. They deserve to be listened to and believed and trusted and upheld. They certainly don’t deserve to be ignored. And they are not going to reward us with strength, beauty, health and vitality and all the things I am sure we all want our bodies to have, if we do.
From the moment we are conceived, we are given this miraculous being in which nest and rest and move and dance through life.
It is our sacred home here on earth. It is the both the birthing place and the landing place for prayers, hopes, dreams, creations and manifestations. With it, we love, we connect, we offer, we receive. Our bodies deserve the highest honour and respect. In the sacred space of meditation, where we want to commune with our highest selves, it is a good idea to make our beings feel welcome and worthy right from the start.
I think of meditation as "me time" (for me, that's the "me" in meditation) and as special and luxurious, and about everything that matters to me - from what my heart loves, to what my heart needs. So when I meditate, I want to give this special time a special kind of space - physically and metaphysically. My sense and experience tells me that as we all live in physical beings, everything starts with making our physical beings feel as comfortable and luxurious as possible, with all their immediate needs fulfilled. Not hungry, not thirsty, not freezing cold, not boiling hot. Lying down if tired. Moving around if needing to move.
It is such a good and high spiritual practice to ask your body what it needs and then lovingly prioritise that. It is sometimes seen as unspiritual to prioritise the physical but how can our spirits feel free to come forward if we are not loving up the home they live in? I have journeyed with this all my adult life since my diagnosis and I have found that the better I have treated my physical body, the more my spirit has grown.
We thrive when we make ourselves happy - from the ground-the earth, the physical - up. Flowers blossom when they get sunshine and light and nourishment and water. Us too! We are also of the earth and have needs. So yes, in cold weather lets meditate with blankets, hot water bottles, hot chocolate! Fluffy socks. Fingerless gloves. Get cosy!
Alison Potts shares her teachings on self care, self connection and self empowerment as a coach, writer and teacher. You can hop onto her facebook page Alison Potts - Innate Being or go to her website for more on her offerings. Alison will be running a two part course at our Bulimba studio this July, entitled Innate Meditation - Embracing and Embodying Meditation Your Way.