Bruce Lee faced it, Aerosmith sang about it, MTV had a TV show about it (admittedly it was about Alderley Edge, the wealthy village in Cheshire, but still)… ‘the edge’ to some people can be a bit of a scary concept, so what does it mean to ’play the edge’?
It’s a phrase commonly used in yoga, teachers will ask us to ‘find your edge’ or ‘take your posture to its fullest expression’ – but why?
During a yoga class, in some of the trickier postures we all have the point where we go “no way, I give up” – maybe you’re a runner and your tight hamstrings are stopping you from going forward in a forward fold? Perhaps your core just doesn’t have the stomach for a full boat pose? Or your hands give you the thumbs down when you try and support yourself in plank? Either way there’s always that point where we mentally check out – if it ain’t happening, we walk away.
But what if you didn’t?
What if, in stead you chose to stick with it for a few seconds longer? You went from holding your plank for 30 seconds to 37 seconds? What if you played with your edge, and flirted with the idea of seeing if you can go that little bit further to get deeper into the posture? And then what if you got a breakthrough? You finally did headstand for the first time, a goal you never would have achieved if you hadn’t tried, tested and pushed yourself that little bit further, beyond your limits.
When practiced safely, the art of ‘playing the edge’ can help you deepen your practice, providing you listen to your body: consider any injuries, consider how to feel at that exact moment and check your ego at the door. By playing the edge you can practice strengthening your body, not draining it – testing your limits, but not going beyond them, and never putting yourself at risk.
Naturally, like all things we practice on the mat, we can take this theory off the mat too – like Bruce Lee says “there are no limits there are only plateaus” – in life, when we feel we ‘can’t’, test yourself, and see whether you actually can.
Take Bruce for example, he was a famous martial artist, movie star and philosophy major, his art was steeped in a philosophical foundation and did not follow long held martial traditions. He marched to his own beat, pushed the boundaries, played his edge and as a result his legacy continues to inspire people around the world.
So the next time you say: “I want to do yoga but I’m not very flexible”: why should that stop you? Start practicing yoga and you might start to become flexible – or – “I can’t play netball because I don’t know how”: learn how – or – “I want to audition for a part in a new play but I don’t know if I am good enough”: let someone else be the judge of that, why make excuses before you have even tried?
In life, and on the yoga mat, when we push ourselves beyond the limits of what we think we “can or can’t do” we surprise ourselves, we explore new ideas, experiences, meet new people and open ourselves up to the endless realm of possibility that anything is possible – if you only just believe in yourself.