The universe constantly tries to create balance in everything. The seasons are balanced between extremes of heat and cold, life and death. But life often lacks balance by definition and this can bring about a host of difficulties which demand our attention, frequently at the worst possible time.
Balance and illness
I need to eat regularly, otherwise I get hangry and a migraine is often not far behind. Migraines are a way my body is telling me to slow down and look after myself a bit more, but I don’t always listen. I take my medication and force myself to get on with the rest of my day. When I take the time to properly get over a migraine attack, I feel much better by allowing myself to rest and recover in a quiet and calm environment.
Migraines force me to step away from my over-active lifestyle and slow down, thus bringing about more balance. And to this end they work for a brief time anyway. Then I start to ramp up the imbalance by burning the candle at both ends, working too many hours and not eating properly. Then the cycle begins again.
I have made a concerted effort to create balance in all areas of my life. I believe that it is important to find the state of equilibrium and work hard to maintain that point. This even comes down to the music I listen to. I start and end each day by listening to Classic FM, because it soothes me. I like the calm voices of the presenters and the emotions evoked through the music. But driving to work I often listen to Sabotage by The Beastie Boys or something by Stereophonics. It’s about balance, a bit of one thing and an appreciation for its opposite.
My week can be incredibly busy, teaching 4 yoga classes; teaching everyday at school and finding time for my family, there’s often not enough hours for me to relax and look after myself. But I feel the shift, when things are heading out of balance and I’m not looking after myself enough. This is when I force myself to take a break, to switch off my phone, throw on a facemask and sit back to watch nonsense on tv. Taking time for myself helps me to be a better teacher, a better sister and daughter and hopefully a more engaged yoga instructor too.
But I have been making a bigger effort to cultivate balance everyday rather than occasionally when I’m forced to. I write a gratitude list each evening, I take time to practice yoga every day, even if it’s only for 5 minutes and I meditate because it helps me to focus and find calm in the chaos.
Eating for balance
I don’t believe in diets, because I’ve not seen one that worked for the person using it. I believe in eating healthily 80% of the time and being more relaxed about food the other 20%. I occasionally eat dessert, just not chocolate due to the migraines! But I don’t do it every day, or every week.
I plan my lunches and make use of my slow cooker and freezer by batch cooking healthy meals that are quick and easy to re-heat when I get home at night. This stops me from munching my way through packets of crisps and craving bars of chocolate. But I don’t food shame myself, or others. I make choices between what I want to eat and what will make me feel good to eat. Most of the time what I want and what is good for me are the same thing, but occasionally they’re not. And that’s ok, because it’s balance.
Since I started my yoga journey I’ve been working towards many balance postures, and they have proven the most challenging of all. Learning to balance in yoga, is learning to fall and trusting that you’ll be able to get back up to try again. I have fallen many times, and somehow, I get back up and give it another go. Learning crow pose gave me a profound sense of achievement, and I felt the benefits of working hard to find the balance between effort and ease as I held myself up on my hands.
But I still have a long way to go. There are many more balance postures to work on, and there are always next steps and new dimensions to be found in the ones I can already do. This is the beauty of a yoga practice, it ties in the balance you create on the mat, with the balance we need in everyday life. We may fall off the wagon a thousand times, but yoga teaches us that learning to fall is just as important as learning to fly.
So, I’ll keep working towards having a balanced life. Listening to Classic FM and rock music as it suits me. I’ll eat salad or homemade soup for lunch, and enjoy a hot chocolate occasionally too. And above all, I’ll keep getting on my yoga mat and trying out new balance postures, because when I find my balance on the mat, I know that I’ve found a tiny bit more balance off it too!