Having a yoga weekend retreat isn’t exactly a spa retreat. When we move muscles and joints and ligaments that are a bit tight, it can be painful and it can bring up emotions. As our teacher says, we carry “issues in the tissues.”
A couple of weeks ago I went on a yoga retreat in a beautiful location in Roches Point on the edge of Lake Simcoe in Ontario.
The first evening was lovely. The next morning was a real pleasure. But by that second afternoon I could feel my resistance rising. Things were more painful. I was meeting my edge. I knew if I scurried away home and surrounded myself with the usual cushions, I’d miss an opportunity for healing, ease and release – which is what I signed up for. But, staying with the program, even in an easy, relaxed manner put me right up against my discomfort.
It’s a tricky spot. If I leaned too hard into my edge I would feel overwhelmed. If I backed off too much I would miss out. Meeting the edge is staying right there at the point of resistance: emotional, mental, physical. Not too hard, not too soft.
Ego wants to feel safe and comfortable. When confronted with pain, ego resists. It wants to run away or bury the pain, or try to fix it as though it were a bad thing, when in fact, pain is usually my wise inner self – my body, telling me about something I need to know. Release comes not through running away, but by staying at that edge of resistance. It’s not about pushing and pulling, it’s about peacefully using my natural energy to find balance and ease. By staying in that sweet spot, my resistance becomes interest.
That little gap right at the edge is an amazing place. It may seem small but it’s where we find room to breathe, a sense of spaciousness as big as a blue sky. It lets in friendliness, intuition, reassurance, courage, compassion.
In my downward dog, I may discover that meeting my edge has me moving down onto my elbows if my wrists are too sore, but still keeping an awareness of what is happening in my body. When I have found peace again, I may lift back onto my hands for a bit and back away again, flirting with the edge. It’ll be different every day, every minute. The body has its own timetable. If the pain is too much, I know I’ll have the will and desire to come back to it later on.
I also found it interesting to note that when I first started going on retreats some years ago, I tended to push myself too hard and when the retreat was over, I’d be the first one to rush out the door to get home. Over time I find I’m no longer the first one out the door. Not the last either. That too, seems to be about finding the right balance between too much and too little.
When I meet this small edge in yoga, it becomes easier for me to meet the big stuff that is sure to come along later. By meeting my edge, my resistance to life itself diminishes. I feel contented, more able to roll with the punches. It becomes easier to trust myself, my body, my inner wisdom, and ultimately, life itself.
First published June 2016 in my free monthly email newsletter, Starry Night. Sign up here.