Healthy ambition requires you not to push yourself too hard but not to take it too easy, either. This seems like a fine line, and in fact, in yoga practice it's often referred to as "the edge." It's the place where you're working at the top of your body's ability on that day. If you worked any less, you'd be slacking off; any more, and you'd be risking injury.
Only you know where your edge is.
For people struggling to balance ambition in their lives, working with the edge during yoga can be very effective, says Priscilla Anne Flynn, the owner of Yoga Sanctuary in Windham, New Hampshire. "It's important to know your edge and play with it," she says. On some days, if you're a hard-driving person, you might want to work a softer edge. If you find you need a little more oomph with goal setting, you might want to work with a harder one. "You can do this in any pose," she says. "To work a hard edge, press a little higher, drop a little lower, stay in the pose just a little bit longer."
To work a soft edge, "go to the hard edge, then back off a little and see what that feels like." If you're used to pushing yourself as hard as you can, this may feel lazy. But after a while, Flynn says, you'll get to see that not working at your absolute limit can also be challenging, because it can take strength, both physical and mental, to hold a pose at that level. In Warrior Pose for example, you don't want your knee to come past your ankle on your forward leaning leg. But if you're being easier on yourself, you might keep your knee a little behind your ankle; if you're challenging yourself, you'd keep your knee above the ankle and sink down in the stance a little more.
You can bring what you learn in practice into the rest of your life, Flynn says. Just as you consider how close you are to your physical limits on the mat, so you can think about how much you're pushing yourself mentally and emotionally at work. For example, if you're trying to reach a monthly sales target, ask yourself where you are in relation to your edge. Are you nowhere near it, at it, or way over it? The answer can tell you whether you need to step up your sales efforts, work in some time for some deep breathing or restorative yoga—or take a break altogether to regroup.
In any pose—or in life—when you're working your edge, it's important to stay in the moment, Flynn says. "It all comes down to being present and witnessing."
Alison Stein Wellner is a freelance writer based in New York City.