by Mona Keddy
In my first teacher training, with yogi Erich Schiffmann he talked about cultivating the ability to hear our inner voice of wisdom. To do so, he offered a technique he called playing the edge. He suggested that we move into a pose to the point of first and minimal sensation, then pause, breathe and wait. Only as the sensation diminished were we encouraged to move deeper and again just far enough to develop the same degree of minimal sensation. This way of slow, mindful movement into the depth of the pose provides the opportunity to hone our sensitivity. Developing this sensitivity helps us differentiate between the layers of consciousness and tune into the intelligence inside us. Try out this practice here.
Adho Mukha Sukhasana (cross-legged forward bend)
Take Sukhasana, sitting with the shins crossed and the feet lightly flexed under the knees. Draw the flesh away from the sitting bones and turn the thighs in. Pause and sit upright. Tune in to your breath. Perhaps this is already an edge. If you are already feeling more than adequate sensation in your hips or if your knees are higher than your navel, sit up on a folded blanket, block or cushion.
When you are ready to practice the technique, place your hands in front with the fingertips on the ground. Slowly, walk the hands out a minimal amount, fold over your legs slightly and pause. Breathe. Listen to the response you have to the levels of sensation you are creating as you fold forward. If you are already fighting to come out, come out slightly, pause and breathe. Stay with your breath. As the sensations of stretch decrease, exhale and move slightly more forward. Pause, wait and breathe. When the sensations suggest, move forward, listening to your body’s cues to deepen the experience. Spend several minutes continuing to move deeper in this way. In a workshop, I spent about 10-15 minutes per side moving slowly deeper and deeper into the forward bend. Eventually, inhale and return to sitting upright.
Change the cross of your legs. Repeat the process on the second side staying a similar amount of time. Note: actually timing the pose may be helpful here so you stay an equal amount of time on each side.
Gomukhasana (cow-faced pose)
Sit with the legs extended in front. Turn your thighs in and draw the flesh from the sitting bones. Bend your right leg, cross your right foot over your left and place the right foot beside the left hip. If your hips are drastically unbalanced, sit up on a blanket or block. Pause and assess the degree of stretch you are already creating. If you feel little, lean to your right hip and bend your left knee putting your left foot beside your right hip. Stack the knees as best you can. Draw the flesh away from the left buttocks and make your right hip as heavy as possible. If the sensations are already too intense, either sit up higher or straighten your left leg back out. Remember the difference between the ego’s desire and the body’s voice of wisdom.
Wherever you are, repeat the steps above to more forward and deepen the pose. Remember that this work is to move beyond the automated loop of sensation and response. Stay, breathe and make small adjustments to move in and out of the pose slightly as needed. Stay several minutes working the pose in this way. Inhale, come up and repeat with the left knee on top for a similar amount of time.
Feel free to experiment with this technique in other hip opening and forward bending poses. Let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org) how it goes.