Many students come to yoga class and tell me they need to improve their balance. They are often reacting to how they feel in poses like the mountain where they are raising their heels and arms or the tree where they are standing on one leg. They imagine that because these poses challenge their ability to balance their body without falling that working with them will solve the issue of balance. They don’t notice that they are holding their breath in these poses, or worrying about falling and tensing their body, anticipating their inability to stay in the pose even a breath or two.
Often our inability to feel balance in our bodies reflects imbalances at a deeper level in our system. If we are not eating a diet that supports our individual nutritional needs, our body and breath and mind will reflect that. If we drink too many caffeinated beverages, our minds may race, our breath may be shorter, and because we have difficulty focusing our minds and connecting them to the breath, we will not be able to be stable in postures. If we eat too many heavy foods our mind becomes dull, our breath heavy, and again we cannot integrate our breath, mind and body. Likewise, if we are working a high stress job where we are expected to be available 24/7, our bodies and minds are tired, and our breath reflects that fatigue. Because our life is out of balance, we cannot balance in a yoga pose.
Yoga is about restoring balance to all parts of our system. Our minds become more focused, we feel more energetic not dull, our breath is neither short, nor heavy. When the mind is focused on the breath and our breath stays smooth and long as we do in practice, we learn a level of control. That control allows us to make more appropriate choices regarding our lifestyle such as food choices and getting adequate rest.
It is with the guidance of our teacher and our careful observation of ourselves in our yoga practices and our lives that we can discover the sources of imbalance within ourselves and in our lives. As we continue to gain in clarity, moving away from those disturbances, we begin to find a steadiness and comfort in our poses and balance within ourselves.