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When the "no pain, no gain" mentality meets up with the yoga notion of pushing oneself towards “The Edge” [usually at the end-range of a joint’s motion] and pain and injury result that is NOT practicing yoga.
In Yoga, “The edge is viewed as a potential threshold of revelation, perhaps because its shadow is the threshold of injury.”
When I began to learn the practice of Yoga I injured myself by going over my edge because even at the age of 59, I had not yet learned what my edge was!
“Force that drives toward the edge and beyond continues to be a valued currency in the modern yoga project. One reason is the near-complete integration of asana with athletics and body-image anxiety in the global market…To those who had certain images emblazoned into their childhood brains—like that of the crucifixion—pain might be tangled up with expressions of love or signs of enlightenment.”
In “How Yoga Became A $27 Billion Industry -- And Reinvented American Spirituality” we learn that 83% of the more than 20 million practitioners of yoga are women!
Being a Baby Boomer Activist who learned that yoga can harm or heal, I appeal to my peers to beware that just because one is an accredited teacher is no guarantee they have assimilated ethics that prove they are spiritually aware.
The Cultural Dictionary defines Ethics “as that branch of philosophy dealing with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and to the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions.”
Ethics is also understood as moral principles, values, precepts or rules of conduct an individual follows because of their conscience or Inner Wisdom.
Because highly ethical Doctors had advised me; I agreed to undergo bilateral total knee replacements in September 2013.
However my conscience/gut feeling: Inner Wisdom informed me that surgery was NOT the best way for me. I cancelled the surgery in the midst of signing the Release Forms and angered the orthopedist.
However, I felt enormous RELIEF and happily began the search for HOW to heal a lack of cartilage in my knees and end stage osteoarthritis in both shoulders.
A few weeks later, I found my way to a local Yoga Studio and began to learn the Practice of Yoga.
Over the following few months I reinjured my knees, shoulders and neck [C5-6 impingement] because I had NOT yet learned what my yoga teachers meant when they spoke about “hitting The Edge” and backing off.
My painful misunderstandings eventually enlightened me over the difference between Resistance felt as inflexibility, stiffness, restrictions and Compression, which is going OVER The Edge!
One of my earliest memories of going over The Edge happened during my 5th year of life.
My mother had just brought home my first -and last- pair of Buster Brown patent leather Mary Jane’s for Easter Sunday 1959.
She told me NOT to go out and play in them-but they looked so cool I slipped them on and ran out of our apartment in a Staten Island Project.
I met my group on the corner just as they were heading to “the woods” to climb a towering tree which hovered over an abandoned dilapidated roof atop a rusted out shed.
Being totally CLUELESS as to how slick the bottoms of new patent leather shoes were, the second I dropped from my usual branch onto the roof I immediately slid and within seconds had fallen OVER the edge!
I landed knee deep in mud and leaves and God only knows what else, not sure if I was hurt or not. However the sounds of laughter overrode my concern of injury and I heard in my heart what my Pop would say whenever I felt hurt and would cry. As soon as Pop checked for blood and found none, he would say:
“Suck it up and stick it in the dirt!”
I stumbled through the muck encouraged by the sounds of glee over what could have been a misery for me. Instead I happily played the fool for my friends’ entertainment.
By the time I wandered home just before the sun went down my shoes were encased in a dried thick latte hued ooze. I don’t remember a spanking –only being scrubbed down in the shower and being told to go to my room until Pop got home.
I may have lain in the bottom bunk of that silent room for hours but only after I got tired of feeling sorry for me, did I roll over onto my left side and stare at that empty light green wall. It was not long before my imagination witnessed a movie of the world laid out flat just for me all over that light green wall. I explored paths into woods and villages, cities new and old and into many walls, mazes, alleys, byways and all sorts of ways…
At the age of 62 I still see life as a movie and we get to choose which part to play and are always free to play a new one.
After the events of 11 September 2011, this apolitical privileged American took a part for truth, justice and peace.
NOT until I learned about Pranayama breathing techniques in yoga class did I appreciate my father for planting the seeds of the necessity to frequently INHALE deeply and fully EXHALE. When done with a loud SIGH on the exhale there is an immediate release of calming hormones which alleviate fear, anger, anxiety and fatigue.
Practice has proven to me how the Breath can also RELEASE constrictions that increase feelings of pain.
ONLY recently have I begun to appreciate ALL the pain I have been through and come to understand that misery and suffering are optional:
Pain is inevitable and The Edge is always an opportunity for CHANGE!