Lean into it, with control and certainty, she said. And then, lean in a bit beyond that.
I had my head on the ground and my feet were slowly rising to the sky. I’d never tried a headstand before, and I knew I couldn’t do it.
She said: find where is comfortable, and experiment with where is not. Settle on a place between the two.
That is your edge.
She continued: In yoga, and in life, we must always seek to find our edge. The bit beyond comfort, but before discomfort.
I collapsed to the floor in an embarrassingly ineloquent smash, letting out a disproportionate squeal as I tumbled. For a glorious second I almost had a grip on the thing. I’m doing it! I let myself believe. I’m really doing it! And then my legs went over my head and I bent in half in all the wrong ways, the only one in the class seemingly incapable of defying gravity.
Do it again, she said, addressing the group but directing the instruction at me. That’s how you find where your edge is. You go too far, and so know the boundary for next time.
Lithe, tanned bodies all around me balanced in perfect harmony with their bodies. I wiped sweat from my brow and committed to trying again.
If you haven’t fallen to the ground yet, you’re not pushing for your edge hard enough.
A body at the back fell over.
Push, else your practice will be limited. You will not know what you are capable of until you get it wrong more than once. The point of this is to fail. Keep falling over.
Somebody else leant too far, too. BAM.
Get up, she said. Learn from it.
I didn’t know we were finite. I thought, actually, the total opposite: that life, and us, as humans, with hopes and dreams and aspirations, were infinite in our capacities. All we have to do, I thought, is exorcise our own self-limiting belief.
Too much would never be enough, was my mantra.
Maybe there is such thing as enough.
Maybe it isn’t about being without limits, without an edge. If we don’t have an edge, we fall. Or, more accurately – if we don’t know it, we fall.
I wonder if the most important lesson we could ever hope to learn is actually all about where we end. Physically. Emotionally. Romantically. Spiritually. Knowing how to feel full without bursting. How to love without self-sacrificing. How to give without running empty.
Something clicked for me in that yoga class.
I started to see, like a photograph held under water, slowly coming into focus as it rises to the surface: we’re better for our edges. For the limits. For fucking up a bit, and knowing how to do it differently next time. Or the time after that. For figuring out what works for us, and what doesn’t, in a very personal way. For putting our feet in the air and trying really goddamn hard to balance, knowing that one iota more would send us over into the abyss.
Or at least flat on our face.
It feels a funny thing to say, for somebody so outwardly committed to love, and openness, and the strength of vulnerability. But. Those things – the things I believe and who I am – they do not go on forever.
Endless love, constant boundaries, my pen friend Meg calls it.
I’m starting to hold on to the first thread of that thought. I’m beginning to tug, and let the thing unravel.
I declared February my month of headstands. I decided to fall over, every day, until I knew exactly where my edge was. And I did it publicly, too – on beaches and balconies, an audience of my family or other backpackers or fish leaping in curiosity from the sea.
I fell and I fell and sometimes I was so sick of falling I couldn’t get my legs up very high at all. I couldn’t get high enough, couldn’t get secure enough in myself. My knees fell back to their muddled starting position and I’d roll up my mat, defeated. I tried again tomorrow.
I want you to ask yourself where your edge is.
I want to ask yourself what you say yes to, and what you say “no” to because it is beyond you. And for what reason? Self-preservation, because you don’t want to fall? Or because you know, through experience, where your edge in that particular matter lies?
Be curious to know: what you will permit yourself to really lean into, knowing that you will royally fuck it all up, so that you’re clearer than ever before on where, exactly, your edge lies.
What are your boundaries?