You may have heard a yoga instructor or two tell you to “find your edge” in a posture, or “take it to your fullest expression.”
While sentences like these can feel like they should make sense when you hear them, you may be left wondering what the teacher is really trying to say, or if you are truly getting to your maximum or not. Here are my five practical ‘how to’ tips for finding your personal fullest expression of asana.
1. Consider any injuries.
First things first, you must, must, must always honor any injuries when taking on any posture in yoga. It can be so easy to get caught up in the flow of a public class and forget that you have that tender hamstring as you enter into a really deep Forward Fold.
But the truth is, the more you nurse your injuries and give them time, space, and rest to heal, the faster you will be able to return to your practice as usual.
Whenever you are moving through your asana, whether at home or in the studio, the most important thing you can do is take care of any sensitive areas. You really are always going to be better off playing it safe than being sorry.
2. Check your “ego” at the door.
Have you ever heard that saying, there is always going to be someone prettier (or more handsome) smarter, richer, and more powerful than you are?
This is true in yoga asana as well. There is always going to be someone who has a “deeper” or “stronger” physical practice than you perceive yourself to have. And this can cause some serious issues for the part of us that wants to feel special and loved.
This is how I interpret the ego—it is really just a part of you that is looking for some love, attention, acknowledgment, and to feel special.
So instead of trying to get your body to copy what those around you are doing, pause for a moment and give yourself some love and compassion. Fill your heart with gratitude and appreciation for yourself just for showing up here on your mat.
Then move from that place. Move from the place of knowing that you are perfect and good enough just as you are, right here right now. You may find that your fullest expression of your postures look very different with this mindset.
3. Is it your mind or your body talking?
Some of us like to push ourselves way too far in class, while others like to hang back and not feel the discomfort of finding the edge of a pose. Oftentimes, for the latter half of the population, the mind is weaving a story that says the body cannot go any further, it’s already hard enough as it is, and so on.
Then, if you were to test the waters, just for a moment, you may find that your physical body is actually fully capable of safely moving a little deeper into a stretch, or sinking a little deeper into a lunge.
The mind will always try to protect your body, and this can be a good thing. Just don’t let this hinder you from reaching greater depths of freedom within your postures.
When your mind tells you that you have reached your edge, check in with your body for a moment. See if going just a little further is possible—you don’t have to commit, just test it. You may be surprised what you find!
4. Test your breath.
Your breath is your most accurate gauge for finding your edge. Once you have taken any injuries into account, once you have loved your ego and tested your mind, you can then check into your breath to see if you have fully reached your optimal position.
If you are able to maintain a smooth and easy rhythm, then you are most likely not past your edge. If your breath is haggard, short, and labored, this is a guarantee that you need to back off.
Your breath will never lie to you. This means that you can find a comfortable breathing space within a posture, then push it a little bit further, and then stop as soon as your easy breath escapes you. Then you know you have found your depth.
5. Today is not yesterday, nor is it tomorrow.
The last point I feel that is important to mention about finding your edge in asana is that each day and each practice is different. Just because you could put your hands flat on the mat in a Standing Forward Fold yesterday, that doesn’t mean that your body is going to be open to that tomorrow.
Just because you can hang out in a Handstand this week, that doesn’t mean you should do it every single day for the rest of the month. This is because the body is not static. The body goes through rhythms, cycles, and phases.
The biggest favor that you can do for yourself is to mindfully check in with your body each and every day in your practice. See where you are at, and then work from that place.
There really is something magical about holding back in your practice every once in a while, and watching what happens in your mind and body when you do so. It can be an amazing way to just stop and enjoy your body and breath in the moment.
Do you ever hold back in asana? How do you find your edge in yoga?