We briefly discussed the idea of the edge yesterday in class. Please read over this excerpt from moving into stillness and consider how this may be applicable to your art making practice (replace the idea of Yoga with drawing and painting or even broader making any art).
Playing the Edge
A large part of the art and skill in yoga lies in sensing just how far to move into a stretch. If you don't go far enough, there is no challenge to the muscles, no intensity, no stretch, and little possibility for opening. Going too far, however, is an obvious violation of the body, increasing the possibility of both physical pain and injury. Somewhere between these two points is a degree of stretch that is in balance: intensity without pain, use without abuse, strenuousness without strain. You can experience this balance in every posture you do.
This place in the stretch is called your "edge." The body's edge in yoga is the place just before pain, but not pain itself. Pain tells you where the limits of your physical conditioning lie. Edges are marked by pain and define your limits. How far you can fold forward, for example, is limited by your flexibility edge; to go any further hurts and is actually counterproductive. The length of your stay in a pose is determined by your endurance edge. Your interest in a pose is a function of your attention edge.
In daily life, we tend to remain within a familiar but limited comfort zone by staying away from both our physical and mental edges. This would be fine except that as aging occurs these limits close in considerably. Our bodies tighten, our range of movement decreases, and our strength and stamina diminish. By consciously bringing the body to its various limits or edges and holding it there, gently nudging it toward more openness with awareness, the long, slow process of closing in begins to reverse itself. The range expands as the edges change.
Sensing where your edges are and learning to hold the body there with awareness, moving with its often subtle shifts, can be called "playing the edge." This is a large part of what you'll be doing in your practice. Your skill in yoga has little to do with your degree of flexibility or where your edges happen to be. Rather, it is a function of how sensitively you play your edges, no matter where they are.
This is an important idea to understand as we move forward into our new assignments. The level system we have discussed in class is intended to help you find your edge and to use that as a tool for your artistic progress. It is just as important that we be honest about our abilities and frustrations (pains) in art making otherwise we risk injury, although our injury is not physical it will likely appear as our not wanting to make art anymore. If you find you are experiencing excessive frustration while working at one level you simply need to spend more time developing your skills at the prior level. Slow and steady wins the race.