When you think of “balance” do you think of the ever present questions of how to balance work and life, and self and family or do you think of a physical state of being – balancing perhaps on one leg, on a tight rope, or even on your hands? Or is it that given the daily acrobatics you may go through each day to try to balance your life you think of them as one in the same.
If you think of them as one in the same you are in good company. In yoga we often practice balance poses precisely for this reason – as an expression of the equilibrium we seek in our lives. The most famous balance pose in yoga is, of course, the tree, a pose in which one leg is drawn up on the thigh and we balance on the other. For some students and even for some long time practitioners this is enormously difficult. And for good reason. The attributes of successful physical balance include strength and flexibility, concentration and mindfulness, alignment and a sense of center and an ability to adjust moment by moment to the environment. More then any other set of yoga poses balance demands our total attention but in return it begins to settle the mind and open us to the idea of equilibrium. Eventually the alignment, strength and attention we bring to the simple act of balancing on one leg expands and we realize it is exactly these qualities we need if we are to balance the other challenges in our life.
Just as there are lessons to be learnt from the act of balancing so there are lessons about falling off balance that we can practice through our yoga. The instant we loose focus in tree position is the instant we fall out of balance but often instead of acknowledging this as a lapse of attention we see it as a personal failure and humiliation. In a yoga class, when we fall in public the sense of lose of control is heightened but we need to remember that falling out of tree pose involves no pain and no risk and that it is again a metaphor for how we can react to lose of control in life. In tree position we need simply to place the foot down then try again, without judgment or emotional attachment. The same applies to life. If we keep coming back to our center and accepting our falls as inevitable we will eventually find the acceptance required to just keep on trying.
So why balance on a yoga mat? Because we must balance in life and the skills we practice on the mat will help us reorganize and regroup and to eventually find the relaxation deep inside our bodies to balance in the present set of circumstances.