Still talking about balance it seems… with the equinox and the strengthening theme we’ve got going for this month, equilibrium has been on my mind.
Since my students and I are headquartered in Sedona, our temperate climate gives us ample opportunity for enjoying the outdoors year round. Whether its tennis, golf, hiking or biking, it seems that we all have a specific activity that we gravitate to.
However, it’s important to remember that each of these activities can evoke a bias, taking us away from our equilibrium. Tennis and golf tend to generate right and left-sided asymmetries while hiking and biking have a tendency to create front body vs back body imbalances. If performed regularly, these actions can develop habits or patterns of movement that may overuse and under use specific muscle groups.
Therefore, it is pivotal to learn how to balance your strengths.
Yoga is a wonderful exploration into symmetry and a great educator for any imbalances you experience; whether they are activity related or structural. As you delve further into its practice, you will find that the planes of symmetry: front/back & left/right become more obvious. It’s interesting how adept you can get at identifying your body in sides or segments!
For me, this developed as a result of the training I received via the Iyengar method of yoga. Specifically, Iyengar yoga is taught with precise alignment principles that provide a greater sense of harmony and balance within the body. Once the sense of alignment is established, it is easier to picture your body in different sections working together.
Some years ago, I attended a workshop with Ramanand Patel. During Savasana, he presented an awareness visualization that brought me to a whole new level of body perception. It was the first time that I literally experienced myself in two halves. It felt as though there was a wall between my right and left sides. Looking back, this may have been more evident to me because I have a scoliosis (which truly does create two different sides of the body). But that’s for another post.
In addition to providing awareness, yoga’s alignment principles will make you stronger. With correct positioning in postures, bones can be stacked vertically or lined up laterally so that the muscles can be more productive. A great example of this is in Urdha Mukha Svanasana or Upward Facing Dog.
If the wrists are stacked directly under the shoulders, the posture feels miraculously stronger than if the hands are set forward or backward a few inches.
Similarly, if one of your joints is misaligned or any of your muscles or connective tissues are unstable, there will be a decrease in the overall capacity of that area – be it the hip/leg, shoulder/arm, or the back body. But it doesn’t stop there. This weakness will need to be compensated for somewhere else in the body which can create yet another zone of instability.
So, listen to your body. Don’t ignore nagging pain and look for ways to level your tendencies. In general, you will find that Yoga is the ultimate balancing act.
In whatever position one is in, or in whatever condition in life one is placed, one must find balance. Balance is the state of the present – the here and now. If you balance in the present, you are living in Eternity. – B.K.S. Iyengar