A few months ago, my best bud Alice (@aliceinmotion) and I (@graceyogaschool), held a challenge on instagram all about balance. It was the first time I’ve hosted an instagram challenge and I knew I wanted to focus on balance.
Balance is such an important part of our daily lives, and it affects so much that we don’t even realise. Being able to balance helps us to be coordinated – to not fall over when we reach for something or even just walking along. Balance is a skill and it needs to be practised.
Use it or lose it…
When you’re young, walking and standing perhaps don’t feel like they could ever be out of reach, so practising balance doesn’t seem very important.
However, as we get older, or face different health problems, our natural ability to centre ourselves physically can decline and we become aware of the importance of a balance practice.
One of the key things we can do to maintain balance, and to relearn it if we’ve lost it, is to strengthen the core muscles. Having strong muscles has so many benefits including helping us to hold ourselves up and to be more stable as we move through space.
Any sort of exercise we do will help us improve our balance, but practising balance postures and flows in yoga are really good for both cardio and strength, both vital for good balance.
Strong and steady…
As well as doing specific strength training, practising balances in your yoga practice will also tone your core muscles and it becomes a positive circle of more ease in your body. Think of how engaged you need to be through the front of your body in a posture with one foot off the floor such as tree pose. If you struggle to balance for a short time on one leg, leave both feet on the floor but concentrate on pouring your weight into one leg at a time, keeping your hips and upper body aligned. On the other hand, if you feel like you could stand in tree pose all day, play with closing your eyes.
Your practice doesn’t have to look like anything in particular. Do what feels comfortable but leaves you some work to do. Balance is not like riding a bike. It’s truly one of those use it or lose it skills in life, so make sure you practise- little and often- as much as you can.
It’s all in your mind…
Of course physical balance and it’s practice is important, especially as we age, but most of us are also striving for balance in our lives off the mat. To stay upright in a balance pose in asana, you will notice that you have to remain very much present to maintain equilibrium. As soon as your mind starts to wander you will start to wobble or fall out of the pose. Being present on the mat gives us practice for being present and mindful in the rest of our lives.
Yoga is about the balance of opposites. Yoga = union. The balance of strength and softness, male and female, light and dark, up and down, and all the may other poles that we live between. Working through the push and pull of these forces and bringing them into union brings us balance in all areas of our lives.
We need to work hard, on balance and many other things but we must also remember to be kind to ourselves and practise self-care. After all, it’s all about balance.
Go with the flow…
Recently this balance is something I feel I have lost and it feels like a struggle to get back to it. It is definitely work that has to be done- to come back to a point of ease and energy.
A few weeks ago I had an almighty and unexpected shift in my life, almost exactly a year after facing something very similar and coming through it once. This time it seems to have knocked me off course rather more noticeably thank it did the first time and it feels a lot harder to find my equilibrium again.
I’ve noticed that I have allowed my practice to slip and that makes it harder for me to practise self-compassion also. I have allowed work to overtake my life in a way that I don’t feel comfortable with. I have put pressure on myself to do things that I don’t truly want to do in the hopes of it changing things for me. I have forgotten to listen to myself, to tune in and realise what I honestly need and want in each moment. I have let momentum take over.
Sometimes, that happens. Sometimes it needs to happen and I need to take a step back and allow life to wash over me before I gather myself and set to work on realigning my life and making it work for me.
Coming back to a gentle and frequent practice, bringing in more meditation and mindfulness to encourage a stronger and more positive thought process, and giving myself things to focus on in my down time are the ways I will begin to bring myself back into centre, back into balance.
Do you have any tips or particular understandings that have helped you to come back into balance when you have lost it? Or what you do to maintain balance everyday? Do you have any favourite balance postures in your asana practice?