While practicing balance poses with a client this week in a private yoga session, she said, “It is so difficult to find that place of feeling really balanced, but once I do, I just want to stay there and stay there.” This statement couldn’t be more true of life across the board.
Finding balance takes constant effort in our lives, but once we get there, it’s so rewarding. The bad news is that once we reach balance, we must savor it, because nothing lasts forever. Our thinking about balance is often that if ‘that one thing’ changes, we will magically become balanced, but that’s not really how it works. We have a simplistic ‘either-or’ view of balance, but really, balance comes from a symphony of parts working together.
In a balance pose in yoga, like Tree (or Vrksasana in Sanskrit), there are many things going on internally to be able to maintain the posture successfully. It is necessary to root down into the standing foot to have a stable base and larger surface area to balance on. We must grow tall through the trunk of the tree, lifting the ribs up away from the hip bones to lengthen through the spine. We must relax the shoulders away from the ears and release the tension in the neck and face to breathe easily and allow ourselves to “sway in the breeze”. Finding a focal point to concentrate on will decrease the instability overall. There are more components involved in this pose, but without all of these things working together, it is much more difficult maintain the posture and to find balance on one foot. We must also remember that the next time we practice the pose, all factors must again be revisited.
To find balance in our lives, we must also recognize the multitude of factors that must happen simultaneously rather than focusing on just one thing to be the key. We often view finding balance as hinging on one specific and looming obstacle, but truly, it is about a great number of smaller things working together. We must also recognize that we will be working toward moments of balance and they will add up to a lifetime of balance, but that it is constantly in flux and flow.
Our body is always working toward homeostasis, but this concept is not as simple as ‘rest or work’, ‘on or off’. It is a collaborative interaction of multiple parts working in some capacity at the same time to bring us closer to balance. The whole needs all of the parts to come together as a team in order to reach a point of peace and to take the load off of any one individual teammate as being solely responsible.
If we think of balance in this way, we can work toward it with more ease. Often when we think that to ever reach a state of feeling more balanced, we must change the one biggest, hardest thing completely and this can make it so overwhelming that we give up before we ever really had a chance. However, when we recognize that coming into balance is really about many little parts working and coming together, we can take baby steps and experience a shift closer to the peace we are looking for every day.
In teaching habits to find better balance in our bodies, Cate Stillman refers to the concept of kaizen to make change doable. “Kaizen means good change and refers to the philosophy of applying continuous, daily, small improvements.” (Stillman 2015) She asks us to look at the “smallest, most incremental improvements” that we can make on a daily basis on our journey toward balance and points out that even these baby steps will make a difference.
It doesn’t have to be something dramatic to be effective. In Tree pose, if we simply find a focal point and concentrate there, we can find more stability and ease. Over time, as we make these small shifts, we will find that we pull ourselves toward balance without even feeling like we are having to work too hard to do so.
The breath can bring the body and mind back into balance. What we eat can bring our digestion and assimilation back into balance. Who we are spending time with can bring our relationships back into balance. What we say yes or no to can bring our calendars back into balance. There are so many simple ways to start working toward balance today.
What is one thing that you can change this week, today, this hour, or even this moment that will bring you closer to feeling in balance? Maybe you go to bed 10 minutes earlier, read 5 pages of a book, or walk outside and breathe for a few minutes. Whatever it is, try it. Try it and recognize that this one small step is working to bring you closer to balance. It’s ok if no one even notices it but you and each small step you take is working as part of the whole. What you do will make a difference.
So, give it a try. Just a small one. It will be so worth it.
I will be trying right along side of you.
Talk again soon,