How We Can Apply ‘The Edge’ in Yoga To Our Daily Lives

How We Can Apply ‘The Edge’ in Yoga To Our Daily Lives

Have you ever been to a yoga class where the instructor prompts you to find your ‘edge’ in the pose, and you have no clue what the heck they’re talking about? That’s okay. You’re not alone in your confusion! Yoga-speak can be an entirely other language, even if it’s all spoken in your language or origin without any Sanskrit at all. 

Most yoga classes talk about this concept of finding ‘the edge’ when you’re practicing, because it’s something that is integral to yoga asana according to many lineages (although not to all). This post will demystify what exactly ‘the edge’ is according to yoga philosophy, and also provide a more modern approach of how we can apply ‘the edge’ in yoga to our daily lives, as well.

What is ‘the edge’ in yoga?

While ‘the edge’ can be defined in a variety of different ways depending on your yoga teacher, the school from which they studied, and their belief system- there’s an overarching idea of BALANCE seen through all definitions. The edge is known as the place where you find effort and ease. Or, a balance between strength and flexibility. Challenge and comfort.

Traditionally, yoga philosophy encourages us to find a sense of sthira and sukha, which are Sanskrit words translating to steadiness and ease. Think of it like the sweet spot- that perfect place where your body is working hard, and yet you can allow yourself to stay for as long as you need. All the while leaning into the breath, of course. 

Yoga pose

How can we apply ‘the edge’ in yoga to our daily lives?

So much of what we do in yoga asana, or yoga “on the mat,” can be carried with us into our daily lives. This means that when we step off our mat, we continue to practice yoga, even if we’re not contorting our body into all sorts of wild and weird shapes. 

Yoga is a practice made up of 8 limbs. And yoga asana (the postures), are just ONE of those 8 limbs. Which means that modern yoga as we know it, the kind that focuses heavily on the physical component of the practice, is really only just an eighth of what yoga as a holistic practice is all about. 

Yoga Off The Mat

Who cares if you can stand on your hands if you’re still rude to the person waiting your table? Who cares if your toes can tickle your earlobes if you skim money from the cash register? And who cares if you can float, balance on one foot, or levitate for god’s sake- if you’re unkind to yourself or others? Who cares. 

The real reason we practice yoga asana is not only to improve our strength or our flexibility, but also to practice mindfulness. To take the lessons we learn about ourselves when we’re on the mat into our daily lives to continue the true practice of yoga.


Most of the time, the characteristics, the blocks, and the realizations that occur on the mat are prevalent in our off-the-mat life, as well. If you notice that you’re impatient when you have long holds, this might tell you that you need to practice patience over all. If you struggle to lie still in savasana, this might tell you you need to work on slowing down. And if you encounter a lot of fear about getting upside down, this might tell you that fear is holding you back in other areas of your life, too. 

The purpose of yoga asana is to increase our awareness about ourselves starting with the physical. And then moving through the mental, emotional, and relation layers of self. The only way to move beyond the physical when it comes to practicing yoga is to practice asana alongside mindfulness. 

Mindfulness is simply the practice of observation. Notice your thoughts. Notice the way you speak to yourself internally when you fall out of a pose. Or when you can’t go as deep in a yoga posture as the person next to you. Mindfulness is observing the way you are internally and externally. 

How We Can Apply ‘The Edge’ in Yoga To Our Daily Lives

Respond Versus React

Now that you’re feeling stronger in your mindfulness practice, you can go a layer deeper and work on your responses as opposed to your reactions. Keep in mind that sometimes reactions are inevitable. Why? Because we’re freaking humans, and we’re not enlightened yogis meditating in a cave isolated from society in the way that yogis once were. 

Let’s walk through an example. Let’s say you notice that you’re susceptible to the comparison trap. And tend to get down on yourself when you’re not as advanced as the other students in the room. You compare the way your posture looks to the way theirs’ look. Mindfulness is noticing, remember. So first, you simply notice the thoughts as they come up. 

In observing your inferiority complex, you’re able to readjust. You allow the natural reaction of the thoughts to surface, but then you respond by choosing to readjust your language. A great way to counter negative self-talk is through affirmation work. When you’re catching yourself saying: I suck, I suck, I suck– over and over in your mind. Then you can counter that with a positive affirmation like, I am capable, I am worthy, I am proud of progress.

Practicing mindfulness on the mat will prepare you off of the mat, as well. Chances are, you also compare yourself to others when you’re not practicing yoga asana, too. Now, you have the tools to notice that thought pattern, and respond with the affirmation, instead of reacting by going down the rabbit hole of self-loathing. 

Responding versus reacting is all about pausing. Taking a beat, taking a breath, and readjusting as needed. 

Effort And Ease 

When you’re in a yoga pose that you hate, what’s your inclination? Do you want to avoid it altogether? Or do you try to rush in and out of it? Perhaps you love the challenge, and even push yourself a little too hard. 

Whatever your initial reaction is, just notice it. Because you’ve worked on responding versus reacting, you’re able to adjust your reaction and perhaps respond differently. This means that instead of avoiding it, you do it anyway. Or you work on not rushing out of the pose, by breathing into it. You might also work on not overdoing it. And staying in for a more appropriate length of time based on your body’s needs. 

The place between effort and ease is where the edge is in yoga.

This means that you want to find that sweet spot where your body is working, but it’s not fatigued nor in pain. Mindfulness, as well as understanding your own body’s language and cues, will help you to understand where your personal edge is in every asana. 

So the question is, how can we find effort and ease off the mat, as well? In all sorts of ways! Think about the idea of coasting on autopilot, when you’re just sort of going through the motions of life, but you’re not really challenged. This would be a great time to push yourself a little bit. To spice things up, rather than rolling along in neutral. 

The same thing can be said for the opposite situation- one where you’re constantly seeking challenge to the point of drama, endless conflict, or even pain. If you’re in this era, that’s a sign that you need to lean into the sweetness, and remember that life doesn’t have to be an uphill battle. This is a great time to take accountability for your role in these hardships, and adjust your behavior, choices, and patterns. 

Pain Versus Challenge

Throughout this post I’ve mentioned challenge and pain several times. When we talk about ‘the edge’ in yoga, challenge is certainly a main component. You’re balancing challenge with ease, after all. However, oftentimes, people mistake challenge for pain, as it can be a fine line between them. 

Yoga asana is a tool for us to better understand our bodies. Our bodies speak to us in the language of sensation. And yoga helps us to get fluent in that language, starting with asana. Mindfulness in movement allows us to get more discerning through the subtleties of the language, so that we can hear the whispers before we hear the screams. 

When you practice mindfulness with yoga asana, you’re able to get more fluent in your own body’s language.

Your own practice of understanding yourself- mind, body, and heart- will be the golden ticket in being able to notice the difference between challenge and pain. 

Starting on the mat, you’ll find that when you lean into discomfort and breathe through it- it’s quite rewarding. However, when you go past the point of discomfort and into pain- you can experience serious consequences (like injury). 

When we’re off of the mat, the discernment that we’ve cultivated in our asana practice will help us to know when we need to lean into challenge, as well as when that challenge has turned into pain. There’s nothing wrong with something being hard, that doesn’t mean we need to quit. There is, however, a difference in something not being right, and knowing when to let go and move on. 

Carrying your lessons from yoga practice with you into your daily life will undoubtedly change you. Taking the work on the mat with you once you step off of the mat will allow you to practice yoga more holistically, rather than just that one limb of asana. 

I can’t wait to hear how it goes. 



Kayla Nielsen yoga teacher
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