A common misconception is that balance is about finding the point between two extremities and staying there. That it is about being rock solid. But the earth spins, and there is always tremors in the ground.
When you draw your strength from the movement itself and instead of being a rock, rock with the tremors – or the boat – that’s when you find balance.
Calibrate. Make yourself fluid. Undulate. That’s where the real strength lies.
To do this, some stillness is required, paradoxically enough. But this stillness is not the same as standing still, it is being still – from the inside out. Trying out a balancing pose in a yoga asana class will almost always throw you off balance if your mind is wandering all over the place or if you are forcing yourself to shut it off. Finding balance requires the courage to be with what is there and become the silent, accepting watcher. Rest your eyes on a point and look in. Being still can be immensely courageous. When you are about to fall, your mind freaks out. That’s fine. Falling is more often than not completely fine too. How about that?
I just had one of my biggest breakthroughs in my private practice. I surrendered my fear and can finally do a pincha mayurasana, a standing peacock or forearm stand, in the middle of a room – no wall in sight or soft sand to land on. Sure, it’s a matter of core strength and hip flexibility. I’m not going to bullshit you there. It doesn’t happen over night. But I had practiced and practiced and practiced and built up the physical capability a long time ago. The picture on the beach is a year and a half old. I could do it then, but only because my mind accepted the sand as soft enough to land on. Trying it on a hard floor would make me freeze up and my body turned into a log. Timbeeeer. So I just couldn’t do it.
I have a pretty intense history with severe back pain, and I am sure that memories are stored in the body, telling the brain when to pull back. What it took for me to sever the umbilical cord that tied me to the wall was the act of letting go of the fear, letting go of the negative self-talk for failing and just surrendering to the possibility of falling. I also had to surrender a part of my identity with it, which is that “I am a back sufferer”. I’m not anymore. So I let myself fall. I even made myself fall on purpose. Because it made me not just think, but listen in and truly feel that it’s all ok. This fluidity, this softness was what I needed to be strong, courageous and balanced.
The holidays and end of the year provide an excellent opportunity to faff around at home, build your own practice and create new habits that serve you; habits that you can bring with you into the year to come. Give this to yourself for Christmas! Take the time to move around, and also to just sit still and observe.
You can even do yoga while scrubbing the floors. Keep a note book close. Write down whatever plonks into your mind. Good ideas are sometimes like seeds who need paper to grow roots. Stale, dusty junk thoughts or heavy emotional baggage needs to come out into the light too. Then you can choose what to keep and what to toss. Let it out and let it go.
Create space and a nice atmosphere just for you. Check out some of my suggested videos below or just do the sequences or poses you like from classes you’ve been to. Play around with it. Nobody’s watching (except maybe the cat).
Want to start right now? Here’s my quick guide to yoga on the web!
I’m completely in love with Meghan Currie‘s Strength Intelligence bundle on the Cody App website. These paid plans are for deepening your practice, really listening in and developing a whole new level of grace, strength and flow. This is my Christmas present to myself this year! If you’re hesitant to heat up your credit card even more than you already might have, I get you. The lovely people at Cody are offering the first of her sessions for free. Enjoy! Actually, you could do this one practice throughout the holidays and you’d never need me ever again. (Just kidding. Come play with me!)
Want to join a yoga studio with lots of different teachers, or just hang on the couch and read up on anything from philosophy to nutrition? My Yoga on Gaiam TV has daily videos with whole practices, both short and long. You can do the daily practice, join one of the curated programs or find other videos in the archive. This is a subscription service with monthy fees, but you can try it out for 10 days for free. Also, there is lots of free content like articles and a pose guide. A nice way to get some inspiration!
There’s also tons of free resources on youtube!
Yogatic/Ekhart Yoga is the channel of Dutch yoga teacher Esther Ekhart. A great resource with tons of short and sweet practices, videos on alignment and transitions, full classes of up to 90 minutes and also nice meditations. And there’s a team of highly experienced and soothingly human, down-to-earth teachers in different shapes and ages. Check it out and you’ll see what I mean.
A very common cat situation, this:
Sit down. Relax. Do nothing. Not as easy as it sounds?
In a yoga asana class, there is simply not enough time to really get into a deep meditation practice in complete stillness. It’s a moving meditation, for sure, especially when plugging into our awareness in the way teachers like Meghan Currie invites us to. I would still highly recommend practicing meditation on it’s own, sitting or lying down. And it really doesn’t have to be all that complicated. Guided meditations are often a good place to start, but it’s important to find a teacher you like. Even just the sound of the voice makes a big difference. I adore Jon Kabat-Zinn, not only for his voice, but also his eloquence and wonderful introduction into moment to moment awareness. If I was to pick one thing for you to try of all the things I have listed in this post, it is the Heartscape/Loving Kindness meditation. Call it my Christmas present to you. That should make you open it, right? Then I would love it if you passed it on to someone else.
Merry Christmas and have a wonderful transition into the new year.