When I first started doing yoga, in the simplest of balancing poses, I’d topple over again and again. And years later, there are days when I still do. What I’ve found is that the balance that I can maintain on my yoga mat is directly related to the balance I am experiencing in my life. With too much coffee, or lack of sleep, sugar and stress, I don’t stand a chance. That said, it seems to work both ways. Bringing my awareness to finding balance in my body helps translate that sense into other areas of my life.
Here is a balancing sequence to help you start bringing the idea of balance into your life. Imagine that these physical postures – asanas – are like beautiful metaphors for your mental and emotional balance. Because they are! Master one – and you will master all.
Here are a few thing to keep in mind: Balance is a constant negotiation, requiring moment-to-moment focus on the task at hand. You must be fully present to balance, and one thing that will take you far away from the moment is judgment. No matter how many times you fall, it’s no biggie. Just trust that you will eventually get there; the self-aggrandized thoughts do not serve you, believe me! Also, let your gaze – drishti – fall onto a still point, and maintain it. And remember to breathe.
1. Tadasana (Mountain Pose): This posture sounds simple, but it forms the foundation of all other poses. Standing with your feet hip distance apart, spread all ten toes and ground down through your feet. Let it feel as though you are drawing the energy up your legs, igniting your muscles. Draw your belly in towards your spine, staying strong in your core, your tailbone dripping down towards your heels. Lift up through the crown of your head, and actively reach your fingertips down towards the ground. Close your eyes and notice how, even here, a seemingly simple standing at attention, balance is in constant negotiation.
2. Vrksasana (Tree Pose): Rock your weight into your right leg; feel the shift. Let the sole of your other foot find a home as high up on your left leg as possible, anywhere but on the knee joint. You may start with your right toes on the earth and heel on your left ankle, working towards the sole of your right foot coming high up into your left thigh. Wherever it is, let your standing leg press actively back into your right foot, your right knee opening up. Draw your palms together in front of your heart in prayer. Spend a few breaths here. If you’d like, you can grow your arms long into the sky. Stay until you lose your balance or your standing leg gives out (enjoy the tumble!), switching sides.
3. High Lunge Variation: From a low lunge with your right leg forward, back heel lifted, press into both feet and inhale to lift your torso, arms reaching toward the sky. Sink into your right knee (no further than knee-over-ankle), with your back leg super strong, thigh lifted and heel reaching back. Make sure your ribs aren’t sticking out, draw your navel in and drip your tailbone down. Stay here with your breath.
If you feel comfortable here, try this! Rock your weight into your right leg, and on your inhale, slowly drag your left foot (not touching the ground) forward and into your chest (so that you are standing with your knee drawn in). On your exhale, slowly step back out into your high lunge. Repeat 3 times, working on control and moving slowly and with intention. Balance in movement!
Repeat on the other side.
If you missed week 1 in our series, check out Yoga for A Powerful Core.