So many people find their way to yoga looking to increase flexibility, decrease stress, and to create more overall balance in their life. Unfortunately, because of our “more, more, more” culture, we have a hard time finding that balance on and off the yoga mat. Instead of cultivating balance, we cultivate imbalance by bringing the intensity of our harried lives into our practice. What was supposed to be an escape soon becomes a new manifestation of the stress we were running from.
Here’s the good news: it doesn’t have to be this way! Yoga is a tool, and it can be used in a myriad of ways, but the intention behind this tool was always for the sake of increasing balance and harmony in our lives. When we are in harmony (which is what balance is), life flows. Here are 5 ground rules to better balance in your practice–on and off the mat.
1. Feel your feet. You don’t actually need to be standing for this to work! Whether you’re in a standing balance or in a tough spot at work (or anywhere), this is essential. This practice of bringing your awareness to your feet and the ground below is very Root Chakra-inspired; it will have you quickly dropping from fight-or-flight down into the parasympathetic nervous system to bring you back, and help you reset.
2. Breathe. Because a reminder to breathe is always a good idea. Because we think better, act better, speak better, and move better when we do it. This one works very similarly to #1 in that it shifts awareness to your physical body in order to center you. Coming into the present with your breath will help you relax and focus so that balance is possible.
3. Slow down. So much of the time we move around using momentum, thinking that faster is better. The truth is, we are less precise in our actions and more likely to need a “do-over” when we rush. The faster we move, the easier it is to get thrown off balance and lose ground. Thinking of a spinning top–one wrong move and it spins out of control! The key to finding balance on and off the mat is to slow down and bring more mindfulness into our day and movements.
4. Focus. Setting your sights on a stable horizon is key to cultivating balance. There is a drishti or gaze point (which is internal and external) in every yoga pose for a reason–it is an extension of your intention! Try holding tree pose sometime and rather than gazing at one point, look all over the place. That kind of ADD glancing around will topple you over in seconds! It’s the same in life. When we allow ourselves to be distracted and fail to cultivate focus in our work, relationships, or actions, we set ourselves up for failure. One point of focus: be all in. Laser beam focus is everything when we’re talking balance!
5. Be willing to dance. Years ago I took an arm balance workshop with yoga teacher Kathryn Budig, where she talked about how the people who find perfect balance in handstand are simply the ones who like the dance. While holding a handstand, just like when we’re standing on our feet, there is a constant dance of shifting weight on your hands, catching ourselves and relaxing into those shifts. It’s a vibration at center that is married with breath and focus. Balance is not a static state, but rather a practice, a completely awakened way of being that accepts all the subtle changes thrown at you.
Balance is most of all a state of mind and intention. When we make peace with the inevitability of constant change and relax into them while grounding down, breathing, slowing down and maintaining focus, we cultivate balance.
I hope these 5 ground rules helped you think about cultivating balance in your life AND in your yoga practice (because they apply in all ways). What else helps you cultivate balance? Share your experiences in the comments, below!