In my yoga teacher training, I was encouraged to “play the edge,” to stay just inside the limit of my strength and flexibility. As I get older and deal with more injuries, perhaps incurred by adhering to this maximalist approach, I’m finding that I get way more benefit if I “play the middle.”
I’ve always resisted props: chairs, blocks, straps, bolsters, folded blankets. They clutter the room and take away from the purity and beauty of the poses. But these days, I’m finding that using the damn props works better for me.
Playing the middle and using the damn props are allowing me not only to avoid injury but also to focus on form. Form used to be just a lot of blah-blah-blah to me, especially since I used to set up my sticky mat at the back of the room and didn’t actually hear the teacher’s precise instructions, taking my cues instead from watching the people in front of me. Now I’m inching closer to the front of the class so I can catch every word.
There have been times in the past few months when my injuries made me think I’d soon be rolling up my mat for the last time. But using the props, backing away from the edge and focusing on form—maybe there’s some stickum left in my life.
And where there's yoga, there's hope. Because one of the things I've always valued about yoga is its influence on other areas of my life. Work on strength-building poses, and suddenly I've got emotional fortitude. Work on flexibility in class, and suddenly I'm able to roll with the punches at work. So without yoga, I'd be a menace.