The spring equinox is nearly upon us; the sun is on the equator, so the days and nights are of equal length. It is a time to be more aware of balance: whether that be our work, rest, play balance, our masculine and feminine balance within, our yin and yang and balance in our relationships with others.
Using the Nadi Shodana (alternate nostril) breath work is a wonderful way to bring about the balance of the inner energies or nadis (flows) within the body. The ida (feminine) nadi spirals up around the spine and the pingala (masculine) nadi spirals up in the other direction, so they form the shape of a double helix spiralling around each other up the body. The points where these two nadis cross are the chakras, wheels of energy. The main nadi in the body is the shushumna which runs in a straight line from the base to the crown, parallel to the spine. The point where all three nadis cross each other is the third eye. By practising Nadi Shodana, breathing alternately through the left, cooler ida nostril and the right, hotter, pingala nostril helps to centre the mind and body, balancing the masculine and feminine energies and the flow of energy in the chakras, leaving you feeling calm, peaceful and clear.
Practising balance poses in Yoga can bring about a sense of balance in your life. How easy you find the balance can change from hour-to-hour, day-to-day, week-to-week, depending on how you are feeling. If you are tired, for example, you will find balancing on one leg particularly tricky. If you are challenged by standing on your left leg, this would suggest your inner, emotional, feminine world is out of balance. On the other hand (or the other leg!) difficulty balancing on the right leg would suggest something is not right in your outer, logical, masculine world, for example in your job.
So, by practising, and persevering, the balances in your classes or in your own practice, it can help to achieve a sense of balance in your world. A starting point to finding your balance is to stare at a spot, the smaller the spot the better. This brings your focus in, so you are concentrating only on that spot, all other thoughts (like what to make for dinner) go out of your head and you achieve your balance. If you look away from your spot, and are not certain in your balance, you will almost certainly wobble or even fall over.
Interestingly, when practising Yoga after dark in lower light, which is more relaxing, finding your balance can be particularly tricky. This is because it is harder to see and therefore focus on the spot, focusing generally is harder when it is dark. Is this because we are tired? Is this because if we were living completely naturally, that is in tune with nature, we would be asleep if it were dark?
The practice of simple balances helps us to become more in tune with ourselves and our needs. When in a balance you can only be in the moment. As soon as you think of something else, something you have to do or something you have done, the past or the future, you begin to wobble. Feeling self-conscious, that people are watching you, will also cause you to wobble. To achieve the best and perfect balance is to be in the zone: tuned in to yourself and your needs, centred and strong and grounded in this and in the ‘now’. Gradually, with time and focus, it becomes easier and, magically, you will find more balance in your life, internally and externally.
In its most obvious and general form we are referring to the ‘work, rest, play’ balance (and I’m not meaning how many of those caramel and nougat chocolate bars, that apparently come from the same planet as men, you have eaten). The most common way our lives become unbalanced is that we work too hard. We stop and rest when we are forced to because we are overtired or even ill. Even if we’re not in our job, we work hard at home, on cleaning, DIY or gardening. And play is usually the last thing on the list we attend to. We might let our hair down over a few drinks, but we feel too guilty and childish to play naturally and spontaneously, following a creative pursuit or anything else that encourages us to feel joyful and to laugh.
Of course, it is important to realise that these jobs do still need to be done; it wouldn’t really go down very well if the chores were left undone “because my yoga teacher said it was ok”, but we can change our approach to these chores and Yoga can certainly help us with this change. If we are rested and not so hard on ourselves, then we find it easier to laugh and play whatever we are doing and knowing that you have some time scheduled in to do something you really love, some time to play, can help you to feel better all the time.
If you are a Yoga practitioner, a yogi or yogini, particularly one who shies away from the balance postures because you find them difficult, persevere and take note, watch how your life naturally finds its own equilibrium.