What is a balanced life?
There is a lot of talk about finding balance in modern society. Work/life balance is a big buzzword these days. People talk about balanced diets too, with health influencers hashtagging #balance when they post a candid shot of doughnuts etc. There are over 12 million uses of #balance on Instagram right now!
I find balance to be most effective when it is based more on intuitive actions and less about conscious thoughts. This means that we are all intrinsically moving towards a state of balance. If we go too far one way, we just need to readjust by leaning over the other way a little more.
Balance ON the Mat
In yoga we do a lot of balancing work. Whether it’s standing on one leg or supporting ourselves only on our hands, finding stability is an important part of a well-rounded yoga class. We talk about drshti (a fixed gazing point) and deep breathing about being essential for finding balance. However, these are simply tools for one underlying fundamental concept – presence. Presence is key for any yoga posture and a meaningful yoga practice. And presence is definitely key for finding balance in our practice. I wanted to write a little today on how important presence is for finding balance in life too.
A great yoga teacher once told me that balancing on your hands isn’t about trying to fight gravity, as much as learning to surf it. Being hyperaware when you’re in an arm balance isn’t about tensing up and holding your breath. Instead it is again all about those intuitive actions. Maybe in bakasana (crow pose) we find ourselves leaning slightly towards the left. Our intuition will help us shift our weight slightly to the right to balance out in centre.
Finding Balance in Life (OFF the mat)
Maybe it’s clearer in yoga when we are achieving good balance. You will quickly realise when you have lost your balance, anyway! I’m sure I’m not the only one who has face-planted once or twice. It can be harder to figure out when your life is in perfect balance though. In my personal experience and from my coaching work, I have learned that we normally figure out that we’re slightly off-kilter when we absolutely crash and burn. In other words, we feel as though we go from “yasss life is amazing and I’m doing great” to rock bottom in about 1 second.
Through my experience over the years with managing mental health difficulties, yoyo-dieting and general “life stuff”, I am present enough now where I instantly recognise the smallest shift from “yasss…” towards rock bottom.
Of course, you don’t have to go through any kind of illness or trauma to recognise these subtle shifts. Anybody can – and should – create more presence in their life. I have also figured out that life isn’t about trying to avoid these shifts, big or small. Life is not about smooth sailing 100% of the time. Instead, just like in arm balances, its’s about learning to surf those waves!
How do I become more present and learn to surf my way through life?
I think we all need to become more aware of our reactions to external “life stuff” (there’s that eloquent phrase again!). Once we develop this hyperawareness, we are better served to take care of ourselves and find balance.
Take one minute right now to focus inwards. Maybe do a quick body scan – just noticing how you feel from the crown of your head to the tips of your toes. Is it difficult to take deep breaths? Do you feel tension in your body? Where? How is your mind – are your thoughts racing and/or do you find the same thoughts circling in your head?
From there, see if there is anything that would help you breathe a little easier, or relax your body and mind. Do some shoulder rolls to release tension. Take 3-5 deep belly breaths. Close your eyes for a moment to give your sensory system a break. Maybe you can have a 2 minute break from whatever you are doing, or even a little longer. These small actions will help you become more present and enable you to make better decisions based on what will serve you the best at that moment.
It is important to be hyperaware in a more longterm context too. If you know your life is taking its toll on you, plan a weekend of complete relaxation. Book a mini break, or schedule in a bubble bath. Know that self-care is the best way to balance out stressful situations. Life is not about trying to avoid stress completely as that is not sustainable. Instead, see life as a learning curve towards finding balance, where we can detect the subtle shifts rather than only the big peaks and crashes. By cultivating this sense of presence, we can learn to micro-adjust and find our balance on the surf.
How do you find balance in your life? I would love to hear!