I have been a yogi for almost 20 years (Dude, I am old!). I started practicing when I was 18 in between high impact cardio classes and running on the treadmill. I actually detested yoga the first several times I tried it, my body wanting to jump out of my skin and run away, each time I was asked to hold a posture more than a few seconds. Yoga for someone who had at the time, undiagnosed anxiety, is like putting a bull in its chute before the start of the rodeo. Every time I started the class, within the first few minutes, I felt myself bucking, wanting to get the hell out of there. Breathing through postures, slow movements, holding poses, all of those things made my anxiety worse.
It wasn’t until I discovered vinyasa yoga, a typically faster-paced form of yoga, that I really developed an understanding and love for the practice. The linking of breath to movement allowed my mind and body to reconnect, which is something that anxiety typically severs when it rears its ugly head.
Yoga, derived from the Sanskrit root meaning to “unite” gave me a way to bring my mind and body back into unison throughout my adulthood.
After Charlie died, yoga was one of the only places I could go to find peace in the chaos. The asanas or postures satisfied my physical need to flush out and move all the crap I felt inside my body. While the breath and quiet allowed me to recalibrate my body and mind. For an hour each day, I was able to feel like a whole person, unified.
Over the last few weeks, the studio I frequent has been closed due to COVID-19. While they offer virtual classes, having 2 small children underfoot has made it nearly impossible to find the space to partake. So I have turned back to jogging to relieve my anxiety and need to move, but I have given so much thought to yoga and one of its most important teachings while we are all in quarantine.
The goal of each yoga practice is to find growth. Maybe you fold a little deeper into a seated forward fold or lift your leg a little higher in tree posture. Sometimes it is physical growth but other times it is finding spiritual or emotional growth, letting go of something you have been holding on to, or taking a leap of faith in a new direction. But still, one thing is required for any growth, the ability to find your edge in a posture.
In yoga, finding your edge means pushing both your body and mind out of your comfort zone to a place where you are challenged but not spiraling out of control. The perfect example is when you are holding a posture, such as pigeon, a typically deep hip opener. Most people don’t “like” the pose because after a few minutes their body starts to feel some discomfort as it moves deeper into the posture and subsequently, the mind says, “Nope! All done, I gotta get out of here!” Teaching your mind to tell your body, “It’s ok, just breathe” that’s when the posture is working, that’s when growth begins.
The edge is finding comfort in a little discomfort. It is only in finding your edge, that growth is possible.
The goal of yoga is to transcend the mat, meaning for it to become a life practice not just a physical one. During the last few weeks, I have been reminded of that. I have found myself needing to reconnect my mind and body, knowing there have been days where I have reached the edge. Some of those moments, I have wanted to back off, unwilling to find comfort in the discomfort of being home 24/7, not having the distractions of work or social outlets. But other times, I have been able to lean into the discomfort, staying at the edge sparking growth personally and as a mother. The discomfort of not being in control of my day-to-day life has actually forced me to confront insecurities that I have easily kept at bay before the quarantine.
It may be bold for me to assume, but I suspect each of us is living on our edge right now. The novelty of shelter in place has worn off and so has our patience in many circumstances. And the unknown of when our lives might go back to “normal” is unclear. We fear what might lie ahead but mostly we worry about the impact, what does this mean for our futures? Did our leaders make the right choices? Should we reopen? Was this all necessary? Each of us is making the choice daily, hourly about how to react.
My challenge is for all of us to find some comfort in the discomfort. Allow yourselves, each other and our communities to grow from this pandemic. Instead of seeking to jump ship, run away from the edge, lean into it. Find the discomfort in what this pandemic has brought to the surface in your own being. Breathe through it, put energy there, and grow from it. Allow our leaders and communities to do the same. For growth and change can only be truly fashioned like the formation of a diamond—with intense heat, pressure, and time… in the discomforts of finding your edge.