Credit: I Nengah Januartha (Flickr Creative Commons)

If you’re new to yoga, you may notice that balance is a challenge. While some seem to soar effortlessly, you wobble and fall. At some point you may notice that the rest of your life is out of balance too. What happens on the yoga mat is often a metaphor for how we live the rest of our lives, which means that learning to balance in our yoga poses can help us find a healthy balance in everything we do.

How do you learn to balance on the mat? Well, you practice. You keep striving. The factors that can help you create balance in your physical body are many. With asana practice, you strengthen your muscles – not only the major muscle groups, but also the small stabilizer muscles that help steady your joints and keep you upright. You calm your mind, not getting caught up in your thoughts, and to support this practice, you focus your gaze and your attention on a fixed point (drishti). You learn the muscular and energetic actions needed for balance, such as grounding down through your base and pressing into the earth to create a lightness and lifting sensation, or hugging your legs in towards the midline to create stability. Through practice, you find your center of gravity and learn to align your body with it to find balance with minimal effort.

If yoga is a metaphor, then we can transfer the lessons we learn on the mat to the rest of our lives. How can you learn to balance your life off the mat?

  • Like those little stabilizer muscles that grow stronger with use and keep our joints steady, there are many small activities that we can do throughout the day that keep us steady and on track. It might be remembering to take a slow, deep breath now and then. Planning meals in advance so that there’s always good, health food available. Scheduling time each day to do something fun, even if it’s just reading a book for five minutes. These habits become strengthened with practice and can go a long way towards creating balance in our lives.
  • Practicing meditation and breath awareness, even for just a few minutes a day, can help us become aware of our thoughts so that we can detach from them, even in the midst of our busy lives.
  • Just as we find a drishti, a point of focus, in each pose, our lives need a point of focus. We need goals, dreams, objectives, and priorities in order to help us make choices about how to spend our time. By keeping our attention focused on stillness in the midst of chaos, we may be able to find more balance in our lives.
  • Staying grounded is important. There are a lot of ways you can stay grounded off the mat. Breath awareness and meditation support this feeling, but also having routines is grounding for some people. For others, it’s taking time to connect back in, whether that’s by taking a walk, playing music, doing yoga, painting, or any number of other activities. Finding what grounds you and making space for that in your life is an important part of balance.
  • The equivalent of hugging your legs and hips in towards the midline of your body might be keeping your energy focused on what is important. Although we’re often taught in our culture to see multitasking as a good thing, for many people trying to do too many things at once can throw your life off balance. Learning to say no to some of these things, or at the very least organizing your life in such a way that you can do one thing at a time can be an important part of finding balance for some people. What is most important to you? What can you let go of in your life?
  • Finally, building all these aspects of balance into your life can assist you to find and align with your center. Who are you at your core? Who do you want to be? What makes you happy? What are your goals? Are the things you’re choosing to do in your life aligned with those goals?

Over the past several years, my yoga practice has supported me as I move towards a greater sense of balance in my life, on and off the mat. Just like physical balance, life balance takes work – and it’s so worth it!

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