While teaching abroad recently, a student asked me if I always ‘push my students to their edge’. He was new to my teaching and obviously felt challenged by class. I paused before answering him, and then smiled and said, ‘No, I don’t push, per se, I greatly encourage.” Fortunately, he came back to my other workshops that week and even thanked me afterwards for all that he learned. I could see a new light in his eye and a confidence in his posture.
As a yoga practitioner of over twenty-five years, I can undoubtedly say that Yoga is by no means the ‘easy path’. It is, rather, an invitation to deepen the connections you have with yourself and hopefully the world. Whether you are interested in doing advanced asanas or gentle yoga, cultivating a meditation practice or studying yoga philosophy, learning to expand the boundaries of your potential requires a certain tenacity, patience, focus, compassion, and even willingness to ‘dig in’ and lay a new foundation for roots to grow. This is anything but easy.
Most people have a hard time making new habits ‘stick’ because the majority of the time our subconscious minds are running the show. We rely on our past experiences to remind us of who we are, making most decisions on cruise control. It’s not that this is bad, it’s just not the way we deepen connections. Breaking new ground requires being fully engaged in the Conscious mind. Fortunately, this is exactly what yoga is asking of us too. It is during the moments in our practice when we are fully present that new inner pathways are built leading to real change and growth.
Here are five great reasons why I recommend stretching beyond your comfort zone regularly and ‘playing your edge’. This type of practice will:
1. Build Strength- increasing muscle tone is one of the best ways to keep our bodies optimally aligned, helping to alleviate discomforts and avoid injuries. Feeling good physically supports us to feel good emotionally and mentally.
2. Increase Confidence- learning something new that helps us access our edge increases not only our physical abilities but expands our confidence.
3. Focus Attention- when we move out of our comfort zone, we naturally become more alert and present, bringing more attention, focus and possibility to the moment.
4. Support Connection- stretching our boundaries in yoga not only connects us with others for guidance and support, but draws us deeper into the depths of our own self discovery and inner wisdom.
5. Evolve the Brain- When we take the time to pay attention, explore new territory, try something challenging or scary, and simply live more fully in the moment, we literally build new neuropathways in the brain. This leads to a healthier and more youthful brain, and a happier you.
For me, having a strong, balanced yoga practice keeps me on track with not only the health of my physical body (which includes breath work, restoratives and meditation), but has inspired me to live more consciously in all areas of my life. I can more easily see the correlations between my mind and body, knowing that when one part of my life feels ‘off’, I can pick up the slack by drawing in to what I know from my practice. This gives me the strength, confidence, focus, connection and affirmation to see the potential that is always unfolding all around me.