“Let’s look at your balance.”
I was recently at physical therapy and the doctor said this to me. I thought, no problem, I’m a yogi! Then I tried the exercise and shook, teetered, and wobbled until I fell.
My ego was a little bruised but I’m glad he helped me see that something in how my muscles were engaging was out of balance and keeping me from finding a steady, upright state.
Imbalance sometimes occurs when a part of the body is weak or is not actively engaging which leads to some other, countering part, to overcompensate. When left unaddressed, imbalances can lead to a chain reaction that eventually impacts the entire system -- one small issue leads to another and ultimately to pain and sometimes injury.
I think this can be true in life. We have one area of imbalance that, if left unaddressed, impacts other areas and soon we’re wobbling.
The practice of Hatha yoga is one of pursuing balance through inviting in opposing forces -balance between the fiery, active energy of the sun (“ha”) and the cooling stillness of the moon (“tha”). The poses ask us to find a physical balance between strength and mobility, between effort and ease. The practice helps us balance mind, body, and spirit and move towards a meditative state in which we can experience wholeness and connection.
Another approach to the idea of balance is the Ayurvedic concept of the “Gunas” – the 3 aspects of nature: Rajas (active, fiery, light), Tamas (cool, lethargic, dark), and Sattva (balance, peace). These qualities are always present in everyone but in varying amounts as we move through the seasons of our lives.
Functioning in a state of extreme Rajas or Tamas prevents us from experiencing Sattva or balanced well-being, yet we often unconsciously fuel an imbalance with more of the same aspect or by adding like to like.
I’ve seen a lot of students with Rajasic tendencies (full of fire, busy, always on, always connected, in high productivity and creativity mode) turning to high energy activities – they repeatedly take the fast intense yoga class rather than the cooling restorative one, continuing to add fire to fire. I’ve done this myself and experienced how it can lead to things like anxiety, insomnia, exhaustion, and general burn out.
Conversely, a deeply tamasic state that is further fueled with stillness, dark, and quiet can leave us unmotivated and disconnected. Instead of leaning into our current tendency, we can invite in other, unengaged aspects of ourselves to prevent us from wobbling. We need to balance all elements of ourselves to exist in harmony and to move towards a place of peace and wholeness, of integration.
We see and feel the ever-shifting balance of light and dark, of warmth and cool, of growth and decay in nature as the seasons cycle through each year. And we ourselves have seasons of life where we find our energy ebbing between fiery activity and cooling stillness. While we acknowledge that it’s not possible to find balance in each moment or each day, we can work to balance our bodies, minds, and spirits in each season of life with some self-awareness and understanding of which practices we can engage in to bring ours