Yoga and the story of balance

Yoga postures Urdva_Dhanurasana

The most fundamental principle of hatha yoga for me is balance. Ha and tha are the sun and moon channels that crisscross down the spine creating the circles of energy we call chakras. The word yoga means yoke or balance. So hatha yoga is balancing (or yoking) the sun and moon channels. In a well-designed practice, all the chakras are brought into a greater state of balance.  But yoga addresses balance in many ways.

I organize my hatha classes to begin at the root chakra and work upward, addressing all the chakras in every class. Beyond chakra energy, the need for balance is also physical and a good practice addresses strength and flexibility, forward and backward bends, inversion, and balance postures, so I also design my classes to provide a mix of those (depending on the abilities of students).

If you observe your reactions to the various elements of practice, according to my teacher, you can learn about yourself and what’s out of balance. Forward bends and stretches reflect ability to look within and flexibility, Backward bends tell the story of openness in the world or being extroverted. Strength postures literally reflect inner strength. Balance poses, inner balance and so on. Ask yourself as you practice which postures do you like to do and which do you dread or avoid? Which postures are easy for you to do and which are hard? You’ll find clues to your inner map.

When I started yoga I was very introverted and incredibly shy (make that pathologically); so lacking in confidence that I was weak emotionally and also already struggling with chronic fatigue so that I was physically weak as well. I excelled at doing forward bends and many stretches. I could do strength postures well enough but I rarely put them in my own practice and I didn’t like them. In back bends such as cobra I could barely lift an inch off the floor. Balance poses have always been variable for me, both how often and how well I do them. I like inverted poses.

I addressed the back bend issue first. It took years to work up to pretty good back bends. I still can’t get my foot to the back of my head (I tell my students that’s for next lifetime) but I can turn out a good camel or bow pose. Over the years of increasing my ability to open into these poses I have been increasing my openness in the world. Inner work and body work have contributed but I think the progression from shy and tongue-tied to outgoing and glib has a lot to do with the decision to practice back bends.

In recent years I turned to the strength postures as part of the process of improving health. I’ve found it helpful to keep videos around that contain practice segments with emphasis on postures I tend not to do on my own. It gives me some variety that keeps me from getting stuck in the same routine and helps me work on my weak areas.

Awareness of your relationship with the different aspects of yoga and your willingness to do a well-balanced practice can give y ou valuable insight into the state of balance of your being. If you practice yoga, do you know how to deal with forward bends, backward bends, strength postures, etc.? In life do you know what you embrace and what you avoid, what you do with ease and what challenges you? Do you know what it is within you that drives those attractions and aversions?

When you know the state of balance within among the elements of yoga or of life you can do what is needed to restore balance or equanimity.

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7 thoughts on “Yoga and the story of balance

    • There was a dancer (I think ballet rather than modern) in my yoga teacher training who compared the two often. She was at the end of her dance career (it’s a long time ago but I think she’d been a principle dancer with the Chicago ballet) and moving into teaching and planning to teach a combination of dance and yoga — I think the two fit well.

  1. Pingback: Popular Yoga Poses « My YOGA World

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