Eka Pada Sirsasana (Foot-behind-the-Head Pose)
I might suggest to such a student that he consider de-emphasizing his physical edge for a while and refocus his attention on the quality of his breath and his state of mind. This would give him a chance to consolidate his practice and find a more subtle internal edge, rather than constantly forcing himself further physically. I find that students sometimes strongly resist such a suggestion, either openly or passively. It is often difficult—and really quite enlightening—to realize that playing your edge may occasionally mean not doing advanced poses. This realization can have a transformative effect on your practice by shifting you away from
an acquisitive and perhaps aggressive approach toward a more internally perceptive and holistic attitude. You may become more interested in playing the edges of consciousness than performing wowie-zowie advanced poses. Ironically, advanced poses may then come more readily, like guests who are invited to dinner rather than employees who are ordered to attend.
Every spiritual tradition employs the art of playing the edge of consciousness; each has its own methods and disciplines. Whatever techniques you use, bringing yourself to your perceived limits is a way to deepen your understanding of who you are and how you approach the world. And when you rub up against your limits and work to expand them, you can generate a powerful shift in your consciousness. The altered states of consciousness that playing your edges induces can pry you out of stuck places and open up creative energies previously unavailable to you. And they can move you beyond the edges of your small self and bring you into contact with the limitless, edgeless Beyond.
A longtime student of B.K.S. Iyengar and a certified senior Iyengar teacher, John Schumacher directs the Unity Woods Yoga Center in the greater Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.