One of the most beautiful aspects of the practice of yoga is the opportunity to cultivate balance. In such chaotic and unbalanced times, it is a true gift that yoga allows us the time to explore what it truly means to practice and live in balance. The time we spend on our mat is a metaphor for how we live our lives. Challenges arise, some days are great, some days are not so great, there are countless distractions and sometimes we want to give up.
“Yoga is a dance between control and surrender – between pushing and letting go. When to push and when to let go becomes part of the creative process, part of the open-ended exploration of your being.” –Joel Kramer
Yoga invites us to explore our true nature, our essence, our being. When we turn in-ward we begin to recognize our own habitual patterns, our behavioral energies and we may even begin to change things about ourselves that we don’t like. This internal attention brings us closer and closer to a place of balance, although it is an on-going process.
On our mat we learn to balance the opposing forces of pushing ourselves when we are in a difficult pose but also listening to our bodies and what they are telling us when we may need to rest. In each pose we are activating certain muslces and body parts but are encouraged to release tension and find ease among others. For example in a high lunge – our legs are extremely active, our core is engaged, our arms are lifted and even the hands are energized. Even in this active pose we can balance our effort by inviting ease into other areas. We can relax the shoulders away from the ears, we can reduce any clenching in the jaw or in the eyebrows, we can ensure that we are not gripping the mat with our toes, and of course we can find ease within our breath. Despite the effort that high lunge requires, there are always places in the body that we can reduce tension.
In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras we are introduced to the concept of “sthira sukham asanam”. Sthira is translated as stable, challenge, strength, effort, endurance. Sukham is translated as pleasurable, joyful, comfortable, easeful. Asanam is translated as within the pose. Each pose has the balance of sthira and sukham. Each life has the balance of sthira and sukham. As we learn to balance these polarities of effort and ease on our mats, we naturally tend to invite steadiness and ease into our bodies and our minds when challenges arise in our daily lives off of our mats.
Since practicing yoga you may notice that you have become less reactive in your life to people or situations that used to anger you or make you anxious. You may find that your diet is more balanced, that your relationships are more balanced, or even that your mind is more open. Sometimes it seems that these changes happen naturally as a direct effect of our practice. This fact is what inspired me to write my first blog about this topic because it seems that all yogis agree that yoga transforms us much more than just physically. This is what the world needs – balance!
I invite you to take a look at your life and ponder what needs a little more balance. As our lives are in constant flux and always changing, checking in regularly with yourself with the intention of balance allows us to continually meet our practice and our lives with equanimity and grace.