Balance is an art. Both mentally and physically.
The famous poet Rumi once said, “Life is a balance of holding on and letting go.”
In yoga, the asanas, or poses, are ones that not only aid us to become physically stronger or agile, but also mentally.
The breathwork and focus allow us to concentrate, which positively affects the mind and brain. The brain is essentially what oversees our balance in the body with signals sent to it by the balance sensors, which send out instructions as to how to respond.
Perfect mind, body & spirit alignment
Studies have shown that when you challenge your coordination, agility and balance, you actually rewire your brain in a way that is fundamentally different from that of aerobic or strength training and for the better.
In balance poses, physically, we strengthen and elongate our muscles. We get to feel out our center of gravity and teach ourselves how to align the body as we improve the function of the equilibrium receptors, and we learn the important yoga principle of rooting down.
Mentally, these poses teach us how to keep our attention focused and disregard external stimulation, how to stay steady in one place for a while, and how to find inner center and equanimity— this is all important to us on our journey as qualities we strive for both on and off our yoga mat.
Plus, the high levels of inner concentration required in yoga balance poses makes them some of the most meditative poses to practice. That’s because when we balance we’re challenging so many internal systems at once. We’re so busy focusing on not falling that there’s no space left for unnecessary thoughts! The deep inner focus required for balance has been shown to cause changes in brain waves, shifting the brain into a more tranquil state.
Here are two balance poses you can easily do every day...
Mountain Pose: Tadasana:
This may seem like an “easy” one, but starting in Mountain, which in itself is also a balance pose, is a sure way to have your alignment in check for every balance pose you do after it, including Vrkasana, Tree Pose.
Stand tall and press into all four corners of your feet, keeping them parallel and slightly hip-width apart. Feel the strength of your thighs engaging your lower belly. Lengthen your arms alongside the body, your shoulders drawn back towards your spine and your palms turned forward. Focus on your spine, elongating from the base of your heels to the crown of your head. Do not rush through this pose. Stand tall like a mountain and take a few deep breaths.
Next move onto your Vrkasana pose.
Find a drishti, a focus point in front of you that is stationary and simple to focus on. Begin to shift your weight into your right foot, lifting your left foot off the floor. Keep your right leg straight but don't lock the knee. Bend your left knee and bring the sole of your left foot high onto your inner right thigh. If you cannot reach our thigh easily, place it on your calf, but avoid the knee. Press your foot into your thigh or calf and your thigh or calf back into your foot with equal pressure. Keep your hands on your hips, then when comfortable move into a prayer position at your heart or elongate the hands towards the sky above your head like branches of your tree.
As you practice these two yoga poses regularly, notice how you feel on the mat and how you can work through the struggles of balancing there. For instance, we feel out of control when we lose our balance on the mat, and the ego hates to lose control. Notice how breathing and focus help us recenter on the mat, physically and mentally. Then apply these learnings to the areas you struggled with balance in your life off the mat and notice the relationship of your inner and outer world unfold.