Play Your Edges

posted by Nancy Nelson

Over the past year or two I have definitely been “playing my edges”. On the mat, you might hear your instructor say this as you explore various poses and movements with the sensations that accompany them. In life, this might mean accepting commitments, responsibilities, and opportunities, then observing the emotional, physical, and spiritual effects that result in your life.

It all started with being a really ecstatic graduate of the Inspire Yoga 200 hour program. I hit the ground running. I was high on the thought of sharing yoga with the world and helping people. It only takes one class to make an impact and by golly, I was going to be a part of something big. Now, is this a poor intention? I think not. However, I started to find that the people love their yoga. So I taught. And I taught. And then, I taught some more. In fact, when I slept, I dreamed up new transitions, sequences, and themes. This continued until I started to realize that I am a human. Who new?! Yes, I was created with an assortment of God-given gifts, strengths, and abilities. But those must be tapped into with the mindset of “quality over quantity”. As I mentioned, I do believe that I am a good yoga instructor. I put a lot of thought, effort, and time into my classes. Simply put, I got to the point where I had to come to terms with the fact that I am a [human] good yoga instructor. I believe that God really did give me natural gifts and talents – but he also designed me to need rest. To need balance. Yin + yang.

So that’s what I did. Well, I was kind of forced to do so. I got sick so many times my first year of teaching that I realized I needed an intervention (and had some friends lovingly imply the same thing). The first step: drop a class. A class that I was simply holding onto because I felt a little guilty about leaving. I let it go (cue Elsa) – and then I took my first deep breath in what felt like months! From there, mentally I took an intentional step back so I could really examine what might actually balance me out on a consistent day-by-day basis. That meant, I might even be able to take a deep breath daily. I find this point extra amusing as all I do is cue “now inhale annnnd exhale”. Oh, the irony.

I began to release what I was holding onto simply for the “superwoman” effect. I started to make choices and commitments that would serve me. Commitments that would create a balanced, happy life. Once I switched my mindset, I made a few observations that I would like to share.

1. It’s not [necessarily] selfish to say no.

Selfishness works from a place of ego. And the ego operates from a place of fear. When you choose to let go of a commitment or decline an invitation because it might throw off your balance – you are actually working from a place of love. Self-love that is. You know what keeps your foundation steady and you are committed to that. Now, I will say that if you start saying no to everything, it might be time to re-evaluate where your thought process is going. Will you choose love? Or will you choose fear?

2. I am now able to give more to the world around me.

It’s just the most amazing thing. When I let go of a few of these, I started to really see people. I started to hear how they were doing and really respond. I began to more readily notice the needs of my community and of my family. I even had the energy to not only be aware of these things, but to also follow up with them. This is probably the most rewarding part of finding your balance. Once you are in balance you are able to reach out and help someone who might be wobbling in their real life version of tree pose. They are 8 breaths in and flailing with their drishti focused on the pony tail in front of them. As someone in a balanced state, you now have the ability to lovingly help them discern a better, more stable focal point and perhaps even locate their balance. When we are able to help one another like this, the world simply becomes a better place.

3. This practice of “playing your edges” is just that, a practice.

That’s right. This is not a one-time fix. I have found that you must come back to the drawing boards and honestly seek balance as often as it seems necessary. Every three months has been my prescription. In fact, I am even at that point right now. And yes, it is hard every time. I have to fight my type-A and remind myself of the beautiful results that come from balance. Let me just tell you, it is so completely worth it. As Rumi once said, “Life is a balance of holding on and letting go.”

How do I even begin?

This was my question too. I was so deep in the thicket of my commitments that I could barely find an inch of clear space to think. For me, the answer was this.

1. Set aside an hour or two that are solely dedicated to this self-evaluation and go somewhere where you can focus. Coffee shops + headphones are my remedy.

2. Write out your current commitments, opportunities, and responsibilities and then observe and write the effects they are causing on you (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual…whatever is there).

3. Discern what your intentions are behind each of these. This is where I started to realize I was holding on to things simply for the heck of it. It’s all kinds of humbling.

4. Come back to your personal intention and goal. For me it was revisiting why I started practicing and teaching yoga – because I wanted to help people and love myself better. And I simply wasn’t able to do those things while I was spread so thin. In fact, I wasn’t even able to be a good listener, a pleasant wife, or an honest friend because I was so drained. So relocate that reason for beginning and reposition it as top priority.

5. Trust your intention and let it go. Trust. Yes, it comes down to faith. But remember, you are not working from a place of fear. You are operating from a place of love. Fine-tune a method that works for you. And “practice” as often as you need. You are worth it.

Wife, daughter, sister, and friend. Not to mention world adventurer, dreamer, yogi, and diy obsessed. In the past few years I have gotten married and become a full-timer in the yoga world. A big turning point in my life was a few years ago when I lost a very dear friend of mine. He was 24 years old at the time. I learned a lot during that season, but one thing that I took away for sure is that life is precious, moments are precious, and even the seemingly ordinary moments are beautiful and brilliant. So I'm here to share as it seems fit. Connect with me. I'd love to hear from you!

2 thoughts on “Play Your Edges

  1. Knowing yourself and managing the seasons of work and rest is so crucial for yoga instructors. Great advice here on balancing enthusiasm and desire with the things that are really important. The more you find your own edge… The more you are able to give, but theses seasons of rest are what sustain us. I love the 3 month cycle concept! I am going to try it.

    How do all you other inspire yogis handle this?

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