The phrase “playing the edge” is used in yoga to describe the point in a stretch before pain, where you body begins to feel intense sensations. Finding your edge in each posture is essential for improving your flexibility over time. At your edge your body and mind are being challenged but are not at the point of suffering. It can be difficult to find this balance, but it’s crucial not to push past this point as it can cause tissue damage and inflammation.
As a refresher, dynamic stretching helps warm your body and should be done before you run. Static stretching on the other hand should only be done when your muscles are warm and is best done after your workout. During your next post-run stretch, choose a pose and slowly begin to explore how your body feels as you move deeper into a posture. After you are more familiar with the sensations that accompany moving towards your edge, expand the practice to include two or three more stretches in your routine. Just as the frequency of stretching depends on the person and how often you are running, how deeply you stretch will vary from day to day and person to person.
As you are stretching, it’s important to pay attention to the specific locations in your body where you feel the sensation. The stretch should be felt toward the middle of the targeted muscle but not in the joints.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends holding a stretch for 30 seconds or 8-10 breaths and repeat. To see improvement in flexibility and increased muscle length, static stretching should be incorporated two or three times each week for six to eight weeks. If you are an active person or running more than three times per week, increase the frequency to match the number of times you are running. While you may be in a pose for 10 breaths, you may not be at your edge for all 10 breaths. Start each pose from a place of comfort and only attempt to go deeper when you are ready.
Breathing helps communicate weather or not you are pushing too far into a pose. As your breath becomes tense or strained, it is a signal that you may be close to your edge. Be mindful of your breath in each pose and use it to help guide how deep you should move into a posture.
Ujjayi breathing is a technique used to help energize and relax the body and will be helpful as you move deeper into a posture. Ideally you should move in and out of each pose in coordination with your breath, inhaling into a new pose and exhaling as you move deeper into the stretch.