stretch. streCH/ verb
To extend in length. To lengthen or widen without tearing or breaking.
overstretched. o·ver·stretCH/ verb
1. To extend or use beyond what is reasonable, usual or proper:
2. To subject to undue strain:
As a yoga teacher I spend a lot of time exploring, contemplating and teaching a practice that moves and stretches the body.
We stretch the tissues of our bodies to relieve strain and tension, to prevent injury, to explore range of motion, and so on. The action of stretching brings us into a inner conversation, one that we must show up to pay attention to. As we stretch we want to be very aware of the sensations we are creating and what other dynamics are present, such as the moment of our breath. Stretching can be challenging at times, but ultimately it should feel good.
In yoga asana we talk a lot about the idea of honouring an intelligent edge, a place where we are balancing our effort with a sustainable ease. It is a process that requires our awareness and honesty. Stretching ourselves to a place of pain is reckless, we all know that intuitively. Pain is not helpful to us, it actually gives an opposite effect. Stretching too far will hinder our growth and create injury. Finding the edge means moving ourselves to a place where there is effort present as well as ease and awareness that can be “comfortably” maintained (if you can’t breath fluidly anymore it’s a pretty clear indicator the body has been pushed to far).
Discovering our edge during physical yoga practice can be a revealing process. It can show us in fact how me meet our “edges” in all the other areas and arenas of our life, where we have found the balance of just enough effort and just enough ease and where we are clearly over stretched, muscling through in such a way we are likely causing damage. These are the places that the practice of yoga shows us how excruciatingly personal it is.
I think about these concepts constantly.
My “practice” these days seems hard to describe. My body craves to move in ways that are quite unstructured, at least in terms of sequenced asana. My clients would probably be surprised to see how simple my home practice is right now. How little of it is pose based, how few Sun Salutations I had rolled through in the last few months.
The truth is, I’m starting to admit to myself, that I have been truly overstretched, and not so much in a physical sense.
I tend to expect a lot from myself. I take great pride in setting a goal and putting steps in place to achieve it. I have 2 huge creative goals that have been hanging heavy on me for months and months now and I have zero drive somehow to bring them forward, which is not really typical for me.
It seems I have met my edge. I am trying to take that all in. I am humbled.
When we overstretch a physical muscle in the body the first step to healing it is rest. How much rest you ask? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this. Each injury is different, each of us heal in our own ways. I’m trying to take this advice deeply to heart, recognizing sometimes staying still is just as beneficial as growing or moving forward.
I have been trying to invite simplicity back into every layer of my life and my practice, to give my days room to breath without being so scheduled, to give my body permission to move as it wants to and rest as it needs to, to give my mind encouragement to check the scarcity and guilt of not doing enough at the door.
Commitment to this time of slowing down in the days and weeks, maybe even months to come, I’m positive will be challenging, but I’m already finding greater joy in the simplicity of my everyday tasks, which feels like a serious blessing.
Stretching, both my body and my human potential, has helped me create this amazing life. I’m hoping this time of stillness can help me remember the deep importance of enjoying it.
May our spaces of self reflection be of service to the ever unfolding layers of this life. May we be brave enough to dig in and push when it is time to push and also honour the undeniable power of rest when it is time to rest.