Happy Valentine everyone! Time for a little self love. And here I am, swimming in the sweet irony of writing a blog about finding balance whilst all around me is chaos. I am currently hiding in our bedroom furiously typing before the children find me and demand money, food, a pencil or a poo. It really is glamour all the way.
Following on from January’s intent to create a little space for you every day, the intent for February is to feel more balanced. To take a moment and reflect on what a “life balance” actually means to you personally, what you feel is out of sync and what you can do about it.
The ebb and flow of balance
Feeing balanced is not a constant state, our lives are constantly in flux. Like the most sensitive set of scales, our status quo is affected by the slightest change. Hormones, a grey day, unexpected news.
What works for us on one day may have us howling at the moon on others. Just because our friends and colleagues seem to be Doing It All and not resorting to drink and hard drugs, doesn’t mean that we should be able to cope too.
We are all unique and being balanced is about how we personally ‘feel’ rather than about what we actually ‘do’. If you feel calm and content after your daily routine then brilliant, you are WINNING!
But for many us, our obligations tend to pile up in a slow build until we feel overwhelm and anxiety. Then it spills out into our physical body causing tightness, pain and often illness.
Even when we make changes and feel more in tune, imbalance creeps up on us again. We manage to carve out a few extra hours of ‘free time’ and then fill it with something else. We are not very good at resting or taking time to fill our own cup. I am a number one culprit, as my good husband will tell you.
If we do feel out of sync, then practicing yoga can help nudge us back to a more harmonious state.
What do you need right now to feel balanced?
The word ‘Yoga’ means ‘union”. The union of mind and body, strength and flexibility, struggle and ease.
The physical poses are just one way to achieve this union and to unite both mind and body, yogis also practice breath work (pranayama) and meditation.
Mind and Body
Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana) is a simple exercise to help calm your mind and unite both mind and body. It is a cleansing breath and balances both sides of the brain. And once your mind is balanced, your body tends to follow suit.
- Sit in a comfortable position with your spine long and straight. You can sit on a pillow if this helps.
- Lift your right hand towards your nose. Using the right thumb, gently close the right nostril, and inhale slowly through the left nostril for the count of five, then close it with your ring finger. Hold your breath for the count of five. Open the thumb and exhale slowly for five through the right nostril.
- Keeping the right nostril open, inhale for five, close both nostrils and hold the breath for five. Then release the ring finger and exhale through the left nostril for five.
- This is one round. Repeat this between 3 to 10 times. Then gently come back to your normal breath.
Strength and Flexibility
In your physical yoga practice, the key is to seek balance in every pose. What adjustments do you need to make in that pose to feel more symmetry? Go slow and move mindfully, notice how your body actually feels in each posture.
Consider where you feel tightness in your body and think about what you do in your every day life that might exacerbate the tightness in this area. How do you sit? What side do you carry your bag/children on? How do you sleep?
Be aware that where there is tightness, your practice should focus both on opening this area and strengthening the opposing muscles.
For example, where they are tight shoulders and they roll forward, pectoral muscles will be short but the muscles in the back will be overextended. Your practice should include both chest openers and back strengtheners.
Struggle and Ease
Think about your practice as a whole. Do you only do the poses that you find easy? Ask yourself, is this really what your body needs?
People with very flexible backs enjoy back openers like Wheel and Upward Facing Dog. Their spines bend naturally and they find these poses very easy. However, their spine is already super extended and what they may need more of, are poses to strengthen their back like Cobra and Locust.
Consider if you are doing only what comes easy. Do you need to balance this with challenge?
It’s all about you
Finding balance is key but maintaining it is our life’s quest.
You have to check in with yourself, every week, maybe every day and take time to really take stock of how you are feeling. We are very good at ignoring our own body’s cries for attention.
No-one but you knows how you are feeling so pay attention, take the time to practice self care and ask for the help and support you need.
Make it your aim to take care of you.