When life gets busy, it’s easy to get out of balance – emotionally, physically and mentally – from trying to maintain equilibrium between the activities that fulfill us and the demands of life. Very rarely are we able to maintain the ‘great Tree Pose of balance,’ as our lives are in a constant state of change.
On a regular basis, I find myself asking, “Where am I going?” and “Is this particular activity adding to my life or draining valuable energy that could be used elsewhere?”
Some say we only appreciate balance once we’ve lost it, while others insist that balance takes constant attention. In my experience, the latter is true, and what you bring to the yoga mat depends on the day.
Letting go to find balance
I have been practicing yoga for 14 years and teaching yoga for 5 years. My favorite poses are arm balances, such as Bakasana (Crow Pose). These poses bring a sense of playfulness to my life when I am feeling stressed and stuck. But it wasn’t always that way.
My most frustrating yoga experience was eight years ago in a crowded Vinyasa class. I was practicing next to what seemed like the most graceful woman in the world. In between flows, she would dexterously move from Crow Pose to Handstand and land in a fluid High Plank. Halfway through the class I put my head down and cried in Child’s Pose, thinking I must have completely missed something in all of my years of yoga and that I was a failure.
It wasn’t until I was in Savasana that I realized I had actually learned the best lesson yoga could teach me: We are all different and beautiful in so many ways, and by wasting energy comparing ourselves to others we are missing the beauty of what we have and who we are. After class I asked the woman how long she’d been doing yoga and she said she was a gymnast who had found yoga three years prior after suffering from an injury.
Not only was this a profound experience for me as a yoga student, it was also a turning point in my life. I finally understood the meaning of compassion for myself and others. We all have issues and goals that we are working on, both physical and mental. Although I had no idea this woman was a gymnast who was recovering from an injury, she also had no idea that I had been working on Bakasana for the past six months and was letting a mental block stop me from finding my bliss in the pose.
Facing your own worst enemy
We can all be our own worst enemies, letting our negative thoughts and emotions get the best of us. But if we pay attention, these experiences can be our best teachers, reminding us that everything is going to be all right and that we are exactly where we need to be. When we learn to truly be present, we open ourselves up to experiencing the fullness of the moment; all of the pain, all of the pleasure, all of the beauty, and all of the release.
What we bring to the mat truly depends on the day. Some days I gracefully hang out in Bakasana, other days I fall on my head, but I always feel better afterward. Rolling up my mat, I feel a sense of freedom, peace and gratitude for what my body can do, with the ability to focus and restore the balance in my life.