Balance During the Holidays
I have sent you a blog post I wrote back in May. Yesterday I had commitments with my kids at school & today we are putting up our Christmas decorations & attending our first holiday party, so thought I’d resend this writing, to help me with the balance in my own life.
I added to it a pranayama practice of Alternate Nostril Breathing, which helps to balance our energy. See the instructions below & use it when ever you need to energize yourself when you are feeling sluggish, or to calm you down when you are feeling wired.
Enjoy this month of December, with all it’s wonderful events & experiences, just don’t forget to take time for yourself. If you don’t recharge your own batteries, you won’t have the energy to give to another & that is what the season of giving is all about. So give yourself a gift of your own practice, to help find balance in this busiest time of year.
Anne Cox E-RYT 500
Balance, a subject I come back to time & time again, as it is so difficult for us to find it in this fast paced world.
How do we find more balance in our lives? We always seem to be running from one thing to another & perhaps the only time we take a break is when we make it to our yoga class. As always, we can use our yoga practice to play with balance. It can be taken in a literal way, as in how do we balance in our asana (postures)? The left & right sides of our body are not the same as we use each side differently or we could have an injury on one side. Instead of thinking balance means doing the same thing on both sides, try & do what each side needs which might mean doing the pose differently on one side than the other. Also, seeing how each side has to do it’s own job in keeping the body as a whole balanced in our asanas. This then reminds us to see how we need to find a balance of effort & ease in our bodies as we practice. You don’t want to hold the body too tightly, or you are using tension not strength to hold the pose. But if you are too loose, balance will elude you. Using the breath can help us to feel that effortless effort, by helping our body to find strength & length simultaneously.
Out yoga practice is not just about the physical balance, it is about learning how to balance our inner & outer selves. That all our work is not just for our body, mind & emotions, but also, to connect to our Spiritual side, the place of our True Nature. When we connect with our True Selves, we are reminded that we have all the wisdom we need, if we only listen from within. By connecting to our practice in a Spiritual way, we can see that we are already the things we seek, Joy, Peace, Love….& can we use that awareness to bring balance to our outer world.
Our breath is the bridge between our physical & spiritual selves, so at any time you are feeling out of balance, come back to the breath. It can be used as a point of focus for the mind, an awareness tool to see if we are putting too much or too litter effort, or directed to help you deepen you practice. I find the biggest sign of being out of balance is forcing or holding the breath or not even being aware of it in the first place. I have joked in class that I am going to produce a CD that every 20 minutes you hear my voice say “Are you breathing?”. Now, I know you are, as you are reading this right now, so you are alive. But consciously breathing is different. It is bringing you into this moment, instead of dwelling in the past or jumping forward into the future, a conscious breath is the point of balance. So consciously take a “breath break” once every hour or so, to just check in with yourself by mindfully breathing. At first, even set an alarm on your smart phone, or what ever you have, as your 1 minute breath break. You might be amazed by taking this short break often, you will feel more present & you might even find you have more space at the end of your day. Being present & relaxed helps waste less time & make more time for the things you love to do, hence, be more balanced.
All of this attention to balance in our practice allows us the awareness to notice when we are out of balance in our lives & do what we need to get back on track. We are pulled in many ways, with work, our family, friends, personal time…. easier said than done to have them all balanced. We need to first work on ourselves so we can notice when we need to shift our focus from one part of our lives to another. A balanced life is a juggling act, but instead of racing to catch each ball, it’s more like a professional juggler who anticipates each ball & is there to catch it. Eventually you become familiar to the rhythm & are used to changing from one focus to another, juggle with ease & confidence.
If you feel so inclined, I have attached a link by Phillip Moffitt founder of the Life Balance Institute, on the balance between effort & ease for you to read. I find his writing very inspirational & maybe you will too.
Nadi Sodhana or Anuloma Viloma (Alternate Nostril breathing)
This breathing technique involves alternating which nostril you breathe out of by blocking the opposite nostril. Alternate nostril breathing is fairly easy to learn and has many health benefits. It is often practiced at the beginning or end of a yoga session.
- sit in a comfortable position, with the spine long, head slightly tilted forward
- use thumb & ring finger to gently block one nostril while you breath in or out through the other (alternate hands if needed between rounds)
- inhale through L nostril while closing right, exhale R, inhale R, exhale L...this is 1 round, do maximum 5 rounds without forcing or adding tension. Once that feel comfortable, do 2 rounds of 5 with a break between, then 3 rounds.
- gradually do more rounds before you take a break i.e.: 10 then break.... do what feels comfortable.
Practice a version of alternate nostril breathing throughout your day as you need a pick me up or a calm down (anytime really). Do not force, if you feel unease, just breathe naturally, then try again or leave it & try it again another time. This is just one version of the practice, make it your own by doing what feels right at the time.
Benefits of Alternate Nostril Breathing
- Revitalization – helps you calm down when you are feeling stressed or increase energy when you are feeling tired
- Enhanced Mental Function - provides equal oxygen amounts to
both sides of your brain, which helps with mental clarity. It is a great exercise to do before an important exam or interview.
- Calmness- helps calm an overactive or worrying mind, especially in times of emotional distress.
- Lung Cleansing- helps remove stale air and other physical impurities from the bottom of your lungs.
- Soothed Nervous System- by focusing on your breath and deepening it, your brain will register a message for your nervous system to move from a stressed to a relaxation response by turning on the parasympathetic nervous system (enabling relaxation).
- Regulated Body Temperature -the left nostril is considered to be calm, cooling, feminine and nurturing. The right nostril, on the other hand, is associated with masculinity, heat, force and competition. Doing single nostril breathing in one nostril more than the other can enable you to feel warmer or cooler, depending on what you prefer at a given time.
- Enhanced Sleep Quality- by brining you into a more balanced state in all the ways stated above, it can help you get a better quality of sleep.
The benefits are endless, just take time to do the practice!