Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Intelligent Edge

I am nuts about yoga.

Since the beginning of last year, I have taken a yoga class at 7:30 a.m. almost every single Saturday morning. Now, to some, once a week might not be much, but I'm a mom, I'm super busy, and I get what I get. On Saturdays, what I do is wake up before everyone else in my house and quietly run out the door to my class. This year I have added a Wednesday morning class, as well as some brief and sporadic home practice (generally the kids begin to climb on me or exhort me to try postures they make up) and some meditation before I go to sleep.

The teacher I started with on Saturday mornings, Jenny D., is a wise guru trapped in a hot blonde, surfer girl body. Her class is very challenging, and she has the most amazing things to say about how yoga can help you live your life better. She says things like, "Yoga is about breathing into uncomfortable positions, both on and off the mat." "Everyone who can do X (a handstand, an arm balance, etc.) used to not be able to do it." and "The sign of an advanced yogi is that he/she can fall and get back up, all with a smile."

In yoga they talk about finding something they call the "intelligent edge." That's the place where you are just a teensy bit beyond comfortable, but not yet causing damage to yourself. In yoga and in life, the goal is to be present and aware, and then to attempt things with an eye on playing around with our limits.

Tight hamstrings? Tension in the shoulders? There are postures for these, and more, in yoga. You start where you are, and you push into your intelligent edge, a little bit each time. You don't have to "do" it the way your neighbor in class does, you just try. And it's amazing how all of that trying adds up. One day I absolutely SHOCKED myself when I tried to do a headstand, all the while thinking to myself, "there's just no way!". Lo and behold, that was the day that all of that trying accumulated into doing. My core muscles engaged, my feet FLEW up, and before I could say, "there's just no way!" one more time, I was flipping over! After which, of course, I smiled and tried again.

But the reason why I'm crazy about yoga is not what it's done for my body but rather what it has done for my mind and my ability to cope with my life's challenges. It's all the same: try it, find the place where it starts to feel challenging, and breathe into it. Watch what happens. Breathe some more.

Difficult relatives? Smile. Try. Breathe into it.

Defiant toddler? Breathe some more. Sit down on the floor at eye level. Try.

Torrential hail storm destroy the back window on your minivan? Stay present. Breathe. Try.

For every moment that you experience as not going your way, it's all the same: Keep breathing. Try. Forgive yourself. Smile. Try again. It is lighter than you think. It all passes.

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