Balance – it’s something we yogis must learn to master on the mat. We might have begun our practice with no more stability than a drunk straddling a line, but in time we learned to steady our limbs and cultivate gentle strength and perpetual stillness in our postures. The physical practice of yoga offers us so many tools for living, but sometimes it’s difficult to transfer what we’ve learned from our asanas to our life situations and daily interactions.
Stress Has a Purpose
Although none of us wants to be stressed out, swinging from our moods like Tarzan on a vine, stress does have a purpose. It’s a necessary emotion because our brains are hardwired to take action when we’re in an emotional state. This explains why many of us get our best work done under extreme deadlines (ahem, procrastinator friends.)
Our performance peaks when stress levels are activated. But the benefits are short lived. Prolonged stress keeps us in a heightened emotional state where adrenaline is high and our health is at risk.
So how do we cultivate balance and keep stress in check throughout the day?
Compassion Helps us Cultivate Balance
Author Nischala Joy Devi says in her book The Secret Power of Yoga, “Your relationship with the Divine Consciousness deepens and lessons according to your observance and treatment of yourself and others… Yoga is the uniting of consciousness in the heart.” In other words, when we choose compassion over judgment and kindness rather than cruelty, we become lighter and more agile. We do not have to bow to circumstance, and allow the chaos around us to disturb our state of mind.
The methods we use to focus our minds and control our breathing on the mat can help us to become aware of our emotions and the thoughts that might thwart our balance.
Devi likens our consciousness to a lake, and our thoughts and emotions to the wind. As the wind increases, it stirs the bottom of the lake. Soon, we become unsettled and unable to see with clarity. Our waters are muddy and our best selves (our divine nature) is no longer radiantly reflecting.
This is how good yogis begin behaving badly – slamming cupboards and screaming obscenities (of course you don’t do that. I was speaking of myself).
Cultivating Balance: Pay Attention to Your Body
Before we get our yoga pants in a bunch, we should recognize the red flags our body raises when stress is taking over. Clenched fists, a tight neck, and rapid breathing are initial signs. Get your emotional balance back by softening your gaze, breathing deeply, and tapping into your own compassion.
Have a mantra or phrase ready to recite.
“I looked in temples, churches and mosques. I found the divine within.”
Mantra: Everything I need – all power, strength, and ability — exists within me. I can handle whatever I face today. When I look within, I find my equilibrium.