If you are a beginner or an expert this article doesn’t apply to you. As a beginner, you don’t really know what your edge is yet. You might think you do, but you don’t, and you risk a serious injury that will derail your burgeoning practice if you accidentally go too far into a pose. It only takes one instant for that to happen. As a general rule, when you’re just starting out you want every pose to feel really good without any pain. Obviously your practice is still going to be physically challenging but you want to be careful to hold off on trying to go too deep into any poses and to really listen carefully to what your teachers say during sessions.
As an expert, you already know the minute details of the topography of your body, you know your edges so well that you don’t need anyone to tell you what they are. You’ve already gone through the process we are about to discuss, although you may not have conceptualized it in the psychological language we will use.
But if, like the vast majority of practitioners, you land somewhere in the intermediate stage and have noticed your practice has started to plateau, one of the most likely reasons why is that you’re not exploring your edge. What happens to a lot of people is that their edge becomes threatening, foreboding, a sort of danger zone where aversive stimuli like falling out of poses, pain, injuries, embarrassment in front of other practitioners, and a wounded ego lie. You may have gotten good enough to blend in well with the class, to get through all the poses reasonably well, and so you’ve stopped pushing yourself to your edge since it represents all the negatives we just listed.
But in psychological terms, the way to get better faster at anything is to live in the zone of proximal development, which is where an activity is challenging but doable, meaning you’ll fail sometimes but not all the time. This is where you edge is, and unless you explore it you’ll never expand its frontiers and your practice will continue to stagnate.
A simple mind trick we recommend to help you live on your edge is to invert your thinking about what constitutes a successful practice. Right now, it might be to not fall out of any poses during a session. You want to switch that so that a successful session is only if you do fall out of at least one pose. By now you know where your edge is, you know how to protect yourself from injury, and obviously you never want the ‘bad’ pain that all experienced practitioners know intimately from their own mistakes. But if you want to keep getting better you have to find that edge and have the courage to go far enough that you fall out of poses.