Stepping Back from the Edge

When I sink into a Child’s Pose in yoga, my rump pops up like a dandelion in a manicured lawn. At least I think so. I mean, I know my rump pops up. What I don’t know is whether I’m alone that way.

My forehead is glued to the mat and my eyes are closed. I can’t peek at others and I don’t want to. For me, that’s the road to No Good Thoughts: either self-criticism or — except when my rump is in the air — self-satisfaction. Neither belongs in the yoga studio (or in my life, which is harder).

So as I scrunch there, my rump saluting the ceiling, I hope two things: that our teacher won’t press me lower with a kindly meant touch (ouch); and that our “rest” ends soon. Eventually it does. And my knees, thighs and hips make me promise to ignore the teacher’s cheery invitation to “just drop into a Child’s Pose” whenever I need a break.

Child’s Pose: the shape in yoga I dread most.

That said, yoga has been good for me. I learned how to nourish myself through breath and how to tap muscle strength in stillness. Once or twice, I achieved a mental emptiness that lingered for several expansive seconds until my mind shouted, “Hey, look at you! YOU’RE QUIET.” I acquired a yogic intention — softness — that allows me to smooth the edges of my intensity and to relax my supreme unrelenting efforts to do and be. I developed a prayer aligned to our sun salutations, where I’ll throw my arms overhead in exaltation and stretch them down again in supplication or commitment.

From the Mountain Top, by Benny Andrews (1936-2000).

And I loosened my hips a bit.

I like being in a community of practitioners and simultaneously being alone on my mat, developing my practice as my body wants it to go. I love the permission-giving my studio cultivates: sequences of sometimes demanding poses coupled with modifications of their or our own devising. (My high-flying rump is one of the latter.) I love the idea of identifying my body’s edge and then backing away from that edge to a softer, stronger, more sustainable place.

I used to hurt myself in yoga because — striver, achiever, out-of-control driver that I am — I saw every edge as where I needed to be, or else. Or else what? Or else I was less than this crazy idea I carried around of what I could be.

Eventually, as my knees and hips said No and I found a studio dedicated to yogic principles of freedom, I saw my place on the soft side of that alluring edge. And I saw that I had an unhealthy attachment to squeezing every last possibility out of myself.

That attachment, that drive, had produced satisfactory results when my body, literally and metaphorically, was plump and juicy and could spring back from a sustained squeeze. Now the juices that had flowed like sweet yumminess from those pancake-house orange juice-making gizmos are more like drops of sap from a fire-red sugar maple: dense, rich, slow sweetness.

Yoga helped me to see the difference and to love who I am today, freed from my attachment to who I used to be.

Ok, it’s true. Sometimes I peek. I gawk at my yoga neighbors who fold themselves into clamshells and actually seem to rest. I’m happy for them to find rest any way they can. As for me, when my knees and thighs and hips start chirping, I raise my rump even higher.

The breeze feels mighty good up there.

I wrote this piece for Five Minute Friday, a faith-based community blogging site at Scroll all the way down and check out the other short essays on the topic of “Touch.”  

9 thoughts on “Stepping Back from the Edge

  1. I don’t know anything about yoga, but your post gave me a chuckle. Good for you in persevering!


    1. Thanks, Jerralea! Now that you know there are plenty of rump-high people like me in yoga practice, perhaps you’ll give it a try. It’s really enriched my prayer life. Stay in touch!


  2. Your blog reminds me when I used to practice yoga. However, with a total left hip replacement it’s a little harder. Now I do Tai Chi.


    1. I hope you got a chuckle, Laurna. I’m interested in your Tai Chi practice; I certainly can imagine you cultivated strength in stillness. Yes, low impact, high results is the way to go.


  3. Yoga is actually really challenging – I have given up several times and had to chuckle at your thought process, I can definitely relate to that! 🙂 Visiting from FMF.


    1. Thank you for your note, Katha. Challenging indeed. For a while, when I found yoga too difficult and high impact, I moved to boxing. Quite a change: a boxing — ironically — is a pretty low-impact workout. Hitting the bag doesn’t hurt my knees! I wish you well. Thanks for your visit!


  4. Carolyn Wallace April 30, 2019 — 7:31 pm

    Thank you for the smile, Carol Ann. I’m glad you are in tune with the dense, rich slow sweetness that can be found in slowing down and even aging. Again, thank you for these reminders.
    With love,


    1. Carolyn, I love your observation and the poetry of your language: the “dense, rich, slow sweetness” of aging. I will write your words on my birthday cake! (It sounds like hot fudge slowly mixing with ice cream. I’ll make that my metaphor for my next decade!) Keep inspiring me, Carolyn, and so many others.


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