The Gift of Balance

When I mention balance you might be imagining a tight-rope walker in the circus balancing across a fine rope and teetering slightly from side-to-side. Or maybe just the simple act of balancing on your tippy-toes. Or perhaps you’re thinking of balance in terms of a healthy lifestyle: the balance between exercising and lying around on the sofa with a glass of wine; the balance between that scrumptious date-night burger and your healthy midweek spinach salad.

But when I think about balance right now, in this present moment where we are forced to face tumultuous uncertainty and times of chaos, I think about how to find stability and centeredness in order to not fall off course from mental, physical, or emotional well-being. In face of racism, terrorism, sickness, and potential human loathing: How can we each keep our balance, stay centered and calm, and find strength and stability in such seemingly fearful times?

I first ask you to look for a moment at a yogic idea of the chakras (no eye-rolling if you are a non-yogui, I promise it’s worth it!). At the core and base of it all, is our root chakra: Muladhara chakra. This is the first of the 7 energy centers that we find in our body. Each chakra encompasses a space, both physical, emotional, and ethereal. They are said to be powerful points of energy where the body may encounter certain openness when in balance and blockages when it’s are out of balance. In pranayama (breathing exercises), asanas (yoga poses), meditation and mantras or affirmations, we can discover and open each chakra with the hopes of leading, in short summary, a more balanced and fulfilling life.

You might be saying to yourself, “I don’t get it”.

Ok, let’s break it down: physically, Muladhara chakra is located at the base of your spine in your coccyx. This is a physical space around this area, and also pertains to other body parts like your feet, your legs, your intestines & kidneys, your bones and your teeth. These “heavy” physical parts are related to the element earth. Earth is one of the five elements that make up every living thing; water, air, fire, earth, and space. It’s the chakra that establishes our feeling of being grounded; quite literally it keeps our feet flat and steady on the ground. Hence the name “mula” meaning root and “adhara” meaning support. It can also be translated from sanskrit to mean foundation.

The emotional energy that is manifested through this chakra is your sense of belonging, security, stability and confidence. It also refers to the feeling of having a place to call home or a place or people we affiliate with safety and love, like your family and family home. But when this chakra is not in balance, you might feel that you don’t have a place to call home. Or you might be confused about your true stability or sense of self. This might be the cause of living out a childhood trauma, or feeling at any point along your life that your safe place was disrupted.

More long-held blockages might show in habits like being overly cheap with others (hoarding money), or holding onto useless things or feeling unnecessarily attached to material things. Perhaps you also have an accumulation of material things in order to fill your sense of self. Obsessing over your looks, feeling stuck in routine or being afraid try new things can be other “symptoms”. Digestive problems like bloating and constipation are also common. Experiencing insecurity, lack of sense of self, confusion about who you are and where you are going are signs that this chakra is out of balance.

I’d also wager that coming out of a lengthy confinement, enduring a scary global pandemic and seeing racial injustice lead to violence and upheaval around the world has had most of us experiencing imbalance. It has shaken our core values and roots and made us question how to regain footing on this roller coaster of life. So, these imbalances might be leaving you feeling stuck, fearful, unsure, or wary of what might happen next.

Oh, but behold! Do not fret! It can all be undone 🙂

We can justify part or most of this with our complicated year of 2020, but to put your mind at ease, I will tell you that I have most certainly gone through various periods of instability and lack of balance throughout my life. I spent most of my 20’s with a total lack of self awareness and spent long periods obsessing over my weight and appearance. In fact, right now, in June 2020, I find it hard to refocus and find my balance. I’ve experienced digestive and hormonal irregularities and have started to pay attention to my wobbly balancing poses or asanas. I’ve noticed a heightened clumsiness and I’ve been tired.

So how can we bring back this balance?

Remember that duality is life- when instability comes, only true stability can be found. To start, I’ve started personally started to take the time to really listen. Listen to what is happening in the world. Investigate videos, follow inspiring people on instagram, take part in a rally, join a yoga theory workshop, meet up with random people via Meetup. These extras have helped me gain true insight on life, and deepen my spirituality and yoga practice.

I recommend coming into oneself by focusing on self-discovery. Seek out your sense of purpose and your truths if you haven’t done so already. You can read my post on self-realization, and here is a very easy to understand and enlightening TED.com talk about finding your “truths”.

Aside from continuous self-reflection, self-gratitude, and self-love, powerful soul searching lays the groundwork for feeling strong no matter what situation might be happening in your life- whether it be COVID-19, or just a small set-back or hiccup in life.

And, of course, you can use Yoga as a wonderful addition to your own-self investigation to open up your base chakra, unblock that energy center, and regain balance.

Here are a few tips:

  • Pranyama exercises: Bhastrika or Kapalabhati breathing exercises are great for helping digestive issues and “building a fire” around your core. Deep yogui breathing is helpful in just about any situation. Sit in meditative pose and just imagine every breath coming into the base of your spine and down into your legs. Focus on deep breathing and releasing in the coccyx area.
  • Yoga postures and positions: Do asanas where you are very solidly on your feet like the warrior poses, tree pose, triangle pose, chair pose, or even mountain pose. They are very grounding positions that help you to gain balance and feel sturdy. Practice them with your eyes closed for a deeper sense of stability.
  • Meditate. Ok, you feel overwhelmed by that word. How about practicing mindfulness? Check in with how you are feeling in any given moment. Perhaps there is some tightness in your stomach as you work on a project- stop. Ask yourself why. Go back to the first point and construct some breathing around this tightness. Just take the time to check in with the moment.
  • Repeat an affirmation: Here are a few examples: “I am exactly where I should be”; “The earth’s energy nourishes me”; “I know my sense of stability is within me.” Repeat every morning, in meditation, or at the end of the day.
  • Muladhara focused yoga: All of the above are based around the idea of opening our base chakra, but feel free to dig deeper and do your own research!

It’s always a wonderful idea to investigate and ask questions in classes, to seek out advice from yoguis and yogui teachers, or talk to good friends you trust. Balance can be better understood by studying oneself, and also sharing ideas and thoughts with other people.

Again, Listen. Listen when you research, listen when you talk with friends & family. Listen to your body. Tune in to what you need right now. Any small step will make you feel good. Because goodness, and good habits lead to a stronger, healthier, more solid base. Find joy in the process even when you’re out of balance. Feel gratitude for having fallen out of equilibrium so you can fall back in.

This is truly a time to admire the gift of balance.

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