Author: Charley Hickey is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross & Fremantle, Perth. She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.
“It’s all about balance..” How often have we heard this little seed of wisdom, either coming from our own mouths when giving others advice (guilty!) or when others are giving us advice? If like me, you sometimes have an urge to punch these people in the face (he he, just joking!), then perhaps this explanation may help you to reconcile the concept of “balance” in your own mind.
I once had a teacher that explained to me that balance can be defined by thinking about a tightrope walker. By all appearances, they are “balanced” on the tightrope. However, there are so many shifts constantly occurring in their body and minds that allow them to stay balanced, it doesn’t just happen and then that is it and you can say “phew, I’m balanced now, thank goodness for that!”. It’s always a constant series of small adjustments, a work in progress that keeps the tightrope walker on the rope. Even though to a casual observer they may be making it look easy, it’s taken practice to get here and then continued practice to maintain. This is a handy thing to remember when you look at that person you know that seems to have it all worked out, chances are it is exactly the same for them too!
When we apply these concepts to everyday life and to our yoga practice, Yoga Sutra 2.46 describes this balance as “sthira-sukham asanam”. This could be translated as “posture should be stable (sthira) and comfortable (sukha)” It is often put into practice by “resolutely abiding in a good space”. I like that as you can apply it in any situation but I also love how you can work with these opposite forces in class, either in a subtle way or if you prefer, an extreme way.
For example, you might think that in Shavasana (corpse pose) that Sukha (comfort, joy, gentleness) would be easy to find and Sthira (strength, resoluteness, stability) would be more elusive. However, what if you were uncomfortable lying down or had an area of pain that wouldn’t go away? The sukha here might not be the position of your body and the pose itself, it might be your breath, or finding easefulness in a part of your body that you wouldn’t usually notice, like your facial muscles for example, could you find ease here? Equally, you may need to find Sthira in your mind to resolutely stay here in the pose, especially if your mind was busy with thoughts or wanting to come out of the pose and move instead! It’s such a lovely thing to explore in class, without judgement or intent of changing but with a sense of curiousness and openness to watch what is happening in your own body. This subtle balance, this constant adjusting, you are never done, balance is truly a work in progress……………..
So, next time someone says “it’s all about balance” you can say “Yeh, I know, I’m TOTALLY in balance, even right now!”
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