there can be times of struggle and times of ease. Times where we feel the need to coax just a little more out of it, and times where we realize that we are simply coasting through it. We need to be aware of those moments that take us from our intention and attention, or attraction, to the natural and innate tendencies to push too hard, or to simply drift away into the ease and mindlessness to distraction.
The edge --- not the ‘edge’ where they say if you aren’t living there you’re taking up too much space edge --- no, the edge of the practice, that vital space of information and transformation; any less effort and our mind wanders out of the asana practice – any more effort and we would lose the subtlety of pranayama and sacrifice the benefit of the practice!
So, I would liken this ‘edge’ in the practice to a campfire – come along for my story. The campfire is warm and it represents safety. Its light and warmth are a comfort and it’s a refuge from the darkness. The light keeps the critters away, it casts a protective circle. The heat keeps you warm and contained, and present. The dancing of the flames on the embers is entrancing, mesmerizing, and timeless. It’s what is happening, it’s the primary conversion of energy that we can participate in, it offers purification and possibility; and, potentially danger as well.
If we tarry, or we hesitate, we also may suffer. We may remain cold and distant; we may be lost outside of the safety and comfort of the circle of light. We may be prey to those things in the shadows that aren’t pleasant, and without the light of the campfire, we may imagine them to be larger or more persistent than they are. We would miss the community, the reverence, the dancing lights of the embers and flames, the energetic exchange of the fire and the folks.
Likewise, do you take every expression, greedily rushing in, mindless of the edge and then finding yourself gasping, panting, mouth-breathing?
If we rush too quickly to the heat and the transformation or purification, we can’t sustain the healthy fire without the pranayama. So, a difficult question to take into our practice – are there poses where you know you sacrifice the breath in order to ‘nail’ the pose? What is the benefit of that?? Does the expression of the asana that you seek undermine the integrity of the pranayama and turn you into a mouth-breather? The horror!!
That’s why I like this metaphor of the ‘edge’ and the campfire. Don’t rush in and get burned and ruin your trip; but don’t hang out in the cold woods and get bit by a big bad wolf!! Practice working gently to and fro, right at the threshold where you maximize the internal mantra of ‘I am breathing in, I am breathing out’ and let that be the whole of your mind. Breath, linked to engaged expression in posture. Pranayama, Asana, and perhaps, Pratyahara – the intentional withdrawal from your senses and into the moment in front of you – and edgy concept, but a worthy one!
Give thanks and praise, see you ‘round the campfire!