Have you ever been in a yoga class where a teacher has asked you to find your edge, or come to your edge? Wonder exactly what that means? I thought I knew what it meant all these years, but the longer I’ve been practicing the more nuanced my understanding of edge has become.
Lots of experiences can be edgy, edge does not just refer to physical sensation in a yoga posture, it could, but it is not limited to that. Things that can be edgy include our thoughts, our emotions and life experiences. And the thing about edge is we always have a choice how little or how much we want to meet its intensity.
For me, edge has become a spectrum of expansive experience from the subtle to the more intense that informs my self awareness in a way that is supportive and not destructive. Wow! That’s pretty intense, let’s unpack that a bit.
I think it is important to note that when we choose how to engage our edge, there is a continuum rather than a destination . Edge is that spectrum of experience that is not too much, not too little, but just right. It’s true that we choose that “just right” spot to stop, hang out for a while and explore, however, just right is continually shifting and we in turn must continually adjust to meet our appropriate edges from moment to moment.
Some days we may be in a place internally that we can choose to explore intense edges, and other days, even the most subtle edges will invite deep self reflection, awareness and insights. Neither is better or worse, but it takes inner focus to know what is best for us from day to day.
Edge is also described as an experience of therapeutic discomfort. To do more could be harmful and to do less would be unproductive. While edge is not entirely comfortable, it is neither unbearably uncomfortable either. Elissa Cobb and Michael Lee suggest that too far back from edge is boredom and atrophy, but too far out from edge is self-destructive. When we are experiencing edge we are not holding back from our experience, nor are we pushing ourselves to extremes.
The understanding of edge which I have found most useful, is an experience that can inform me and teach me something about myself. It is an involvement in sensation that is fruitful, in other words it is not going to be fruitful in your practice to go to an experience that is so super intense that it is distracting or even injurious to your body, but you have to go deeply enough into the posture or experience to discover something that will inform you. Michael Lee suggests, “edge takes us even deeper into the experience, be it in a posture or in life”. When in edge the mindful attention of present moment experience can inform your self-discovery in some way. According to Michael Lee, “Finding the edge requires presence. I can’t find it if my mind is somewhere else, which means I have to be willing to be with what is happening in every moment”.
My friend Beth Wyatt characterizes edge as the place where she can receive the most reliable information about herself. Renee Dumouchel explains it this way, “Edge is the place I can hear my truth and actually listen to it, versus trying to tell myself my truth.” Experiencing edge implies an encounter with self-awareness. Michael Lee describes it this way, “Without an edge there is no growth, no learning, and no change”. It is through the awareness of engaging our edge that we receive the self-knowledge that informs our personal transformation.
Edge is a process of finding, focusing, deepening and softening into our experience so that we can be open to the self-understanding that is being revealed through our involvement. It is a place where the doors of awareness open to the fullest extent of what is happening now. It could be breath, sensations in the body, thoughts, emotions or life circumstances. Through edge we come into an experience that holds our curiosity. It is in that moment of curious involvement that we ask ourselves, “what is happening now”?