Balance is About Acceptance

Photo by Michele Venne

I’ve mentioned before the phenomenon of balancing an egg on its end on the Autumnal (or Vernal) Equinox, that time of year of equal daylight and darkness. As the seasons change, so might our yoga practice. There are infinite classes to attend and sequences of postures. Most, if not all, classes and instructors will include at least one balance pose.

This doesn’t mean that if our least favorite posture is tree pose, that it’s helpful to (inwardly) complain when the teacher asks us to shift our weight into one foot and turn out the opposite knee. If we know what’s coming, life has taught us to tighten up in preparation for unpleasantness or relax for good times ahead. And once we acknowledge this, we can take a breath, move into the pose, and let what happens, happens.

We know the body will shift and wiggle. It’s adjusting and finding a new center with one leg off the ground. If we stiffen up, try to remain absolutely still, we’ll fall out of the pose. Oftentimes, those who fall out of a balance pose end up angry with themselves thinking that they should be better, they should be able to do something as “simple” as balance on one leg. Do you know what I do when I fall out of a pose? I smile. I laugh inside and move back into the pose. Even if I fall out a hundred times, or I can’t “perform” the pose like the teacher, I smile. Will my life end because I can’t balance in that moment? No. Will I ruin my day if I my internal dialogue is, “You idiot, anyone can do this pose.” Most likely. Instead, I say to myself, “Ah…so this is how it will be in this moment. Okay. So balance isn’t with me right now. <smile> I’ll try again.”

If you’ve been to enough yoga classes, you know there are several balance poses: standing, squatting, arm, inversions, etc. Whether we balance in any of these or not, it’s about acceptance. Either we can balance in that moment or not. Accepting the “not”, we allow the body to do what it can to find its center, to work the core, to see what else we can get from that moment. If we have no trouble standing on one foot or our head or the balls of our feet, we also can watch the body find its center, work the core, and see what else we can get from that moment (even if it’s a breath or three, space between thoughts, noticing those thoughts…).

Like the body in any pose, balance or not, it’s never static. It shifts, it moves, it changes. We breathe, our blood flows, our muscles contract or stretch. We balance our practice not only with a variety of poses (standing, sitting, twists, etc.), we also practice balancing our life by shifting, moving, and changing when we find ourselves leaning too much in one direction. Sometimes, if we work at a pose, we can improve. Sometimes, no matter how much work we throw at a posture, it is how it is. Yoga isn’t really about the pretzel shapes we put ourselves into. It’s the mental awareness that we gain when we grumble, or smile, because we’ve fallen out of balance.