The Art of Balance
The idea of balance sounds deceptively simple. You come into this world a perfect little laughing crying creation. Then, by the time adulthood hits, like a wild garden, some parts of you reach toward the sun in full bloom. Meanwhile, others retreat and wither. A kind of natural unevenness occurs. Yoga, meditation, going for a walk, any action that quiets the mind, helps bring you back to a centered place. Although, in the previous months, life has undergone enormous changes. In order to flow and even thrive amidst so much newness, it's important to nurture the various areas of yourself that make up the whole.
Note: Yoga poses woven throughout are intended to be optional.
Rooted in the Body
Think of Yoga's Tree Pose (Vrksasana)... It takes time, before raising one leg, because it's necessary to become grounded first, or else it's easy to tumble over. So you strengthen your core, and both limbs before attempting to raise a foot, followed by the whole leg. Much the same is true in life. In order not to be blown in conflicting directions, it's essential to build a strong foundation. How do you do that? According to Wayne Dyer, personal development pioneer, international bestselling author and teacher, "Getting in balance is not so much about adopting new strategies to change your behaviors, as it is about realigning yourself in all of your thoughts so as to create a balance between what you desire and how you conduct your life on a daily basis."
If you'd like to practice Tree Pose it's ideal to do the pose in nature, and focus on a tree. Otherwise, call upon your imagination to visualize one. Senior Hatha Yoga teacher (IYI Yoga certified, Stress Management) Linda Mangin, shares instructions: “Stand with legs under hips and weight distributed evenly on both legs. Bring awareness to your feet, relax and wiggle your toes. Bring palms together in prayer pose and focus your gaze.”
“Shift weight onto the left leg. Lift the right heel bringing weight onto the ball of the foot and rotate the knee outward. Lift your right leg up, bending your knee. Place the soul of the right foot against the standing leg, as high as comfortable. Raise your arms overhead. Hold for a couple of breaths and repeat on the opposite side.”
“Imagine a tree rooted deep in the earth with branches reaching upward towards the sky. Think of yourself, also balanced and rooted in harmonious thoughts, with a sense of openness and gratitude to all that comes your way.”
*Try not to press your foot into the side of the left knee as this may create discomfort in the kneecap. If unsteady, lower the toes back to the floor without losing the integrity of the pose. Hold for a couple of breaths and repeat on the other side.
The chakras divide the subtle body into different energy centers, which ideally flow together in harmony. Regularly checking in with them helps alert you to areas of imbalance. Another way to identify where energy may be blocked, is to observe your own behavior. For instance, notice which areas you're confident about, and those where you feel insecure. Divide life into a pie with many slices... Work. Creativity. Social life. Health. Romance. Family. Add any slices that feel right. After you isolate blocked or underdeveloped areas, purposefully work on strengthening and expanding these aspects. To gain a clearer perspective, look to meditation as a tool for deeper understanding. And/or practiceYoga poses, such as Goddess, that help connect you to your center.
Goddess Pose (Utkata konasana)
Instructions by Linda, “Stand with feet wide apart, toes slightly turned out. Inhale and on the exhale, bend the knees and come into a high squatting position. Tuck your tailbone slightly under. Then raise your arms shoulder height, and bend elbows, palms facing forward. Breathe deep as you open the hips, drawing the knees towards the little toe side of the foot. Lift the pelvic floor muscles and draw the forearms back. Engage the shoulder blades drawing the shoulder blades together and down.”
Additional benefits include, “guiding towards the feminine energy. It also strengthens the quadriceps, inner thighs and upper arms,” according to Linda.
The stimuli you absorb, however subtle, manifests within your thoughts and feelings. Especially now, unsettling information can easily trigger the fear response. So be mindful of what you take in. Worry and anxiousness interfere not only with physical health and emotional growth but accessing your inner wisdom. So always honor your feelings. Reflect. Notice emotions as they surface, without becoming overtaken by them. The same way you witness thoughts in meditation, with practice you can observe your own reactions. Does a particular person trigger a response that you don't feel serves you? If so, examine that feeling. Look at it under a virtual microscope. Get curious about its origins. Then discover what lies beneath... Go deeper still. Break it down. View your reaction from multiple angles until it's diffused. Ask yourself, “What do I fear?” and “What do I desire?”
Within the mind, different sides of the brain govern certain behaviors. For instance, the right half is associated with arts/creativity and intuition, while the left, mathematics/analytical reasoning and practicality. Most people favor one side more than another. To further create balance, various exercises help mesh both sides, such Brain Gym, certain Yoga asanas and breathing techniques. Even something as simple as teaching yourself to write or draw with the opposite hand you normally favor is a great way to train and expand your brain.
A wonderful Hatha Yoga asana that melds both sides of the body, and right and left hemispheres of the brain, is Eagle Pose (Garudasana). Linda's instructions, “Stand with legs together and arms at your side. Inhale and raise arms out at shoulder height. Gently, swing the arms together, bringing the right arm under the left. Wrap your arms around each other, the left elbow resting on top of the right elbow crease. Bring the palms of the hands together. If you cannot bring the palms together then have the backs of the hands facing one another. Bend your knees slightly and with a slight forward lean, pick up your left leg and wrap it around the right leg. Move the elbows away from the body in a slight upward movement... Hold for a couple of breaths and then repeat on the opposite side. Gaze through the opening created by the wrapped arms and palms of the hands, imagine an eagle gazing down at the earth from a point high in the sky.”
*Before practicing Yoga, make sure it is safe for you. If anything feels uncomfortable or you experience any pain, always come out of the pose and rest.
Finding a path to balance involves moderation, and avoiding excess. It's also helpful to veer out of your comfort zone. Be open. Actively seek out growth in places where you are less confident to grow underdeveloped parts of your nature. And while there are various ways to work toward balance, ultimately, feeling in tune, and contented, is not external, but a natural state of being. According to Deepak Chopra, “meditation wouldn’t work unless the mind already had a rebalancing mechanism.” So in a sense you might think of finding balance as removing obstacles, and coming home to your already harmonious center.