As a yoga teacher, I lead adults and children through many different ways to move their bodies. Each pose emphasizes something different. When people try balancing postures, they often crack a smile, surprised at how challenging it can be. Sometimes, students get frustrated; you can see it in their faces and watch how it shows up in their bodies. It’s hard to back off and try a little less, especially when you have expectations to do more.
Try Tree Pose, for instance. Stand on one leg and bring the other foot to your inner thigh, shin or ankle. Bring your hands together in the middle of your chest and take a few breaths. Switch to the other side and see if you notice any differences. Sometimes, it’s humbling to realize we’ve lost our sense of balance but it’s a sign that we need to work on re-developing the skill.
A wise teacher once told me that if you’re struggling in your balancing postures, maybe your life needs more balance. Often, people come to yoga class to “get balanced;” and by that, they may be referring to the idea of being more grounded, centered and less reactive. These are great goals but often, it’s impossible for us to take on these wellness mindsets without being able to balance in our bodies.
How do you know if you’re out of balance? From a wellness perspective, there are a number of signs that you should watch. Sleep patterns, eating patterns, lack of exercise and feeling constantly stressed are all signs that you’re headed for a breakdown.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Do you wake feeling rested?
- Do you have trouble falling asleep?
- Do you spend at least 1 hour a day (not including sleeping) away from a computer or Smart Phone?
- Do you eat in your car while driving at more than once per week?
- Do you make your food or get take-out food more than 3 times per week?
- Do you take pain medications or over the counter remedies for physical pain in your body?
- Do you exercise in any way at least 3 times per week?
- Do you experience stress with physical symptoms including racing heart, sweating and difficulty concentrating?
- Have you done something in the past week that you’re passionate about?
- Do you save some of what you earn each week?
- Do you feel supported and enriched after spending time with friends?
- Do you feel your life has a healthy balance between work and free time?
If more than 3 of these questions raised a red flag for you, you need to take action. This is not the kind of thing that will resolve itself; YOU need to take steps to create positive change in your life.
While working individually with a yoga teacher, wellness coach or physician is ideal, there are several things you can immediately do to make positive changes:
- Make an appointment with your primary care doctor for a physical
- Take one full day off of work and do something you love
- Replace one take-out or restaurant meal each week with something you make from scratch. Impossible? Then go to the prepared food section of your local supermarket and select primarily green, leafy veggies and something light, such as fish or soup. Have this be your first step towards eating healthy
- Book one standing appointment in your schedule each week for exercise
- Determine a realistic time you can disconnect from your work email and start cutting back now on 24/7 access to your job
- Make two dates this month to do something social with someone who’s company you enjoy.
These are all first steps. Living a life in balance is a combination of factors including nutrition, exercise, finding a regular time for quiet each day as well as making time to do what you love. Without actions that support each concept, it’s as if some of the spokes of your “Wellness Wheel” are missing. Each person’s “wheel” will have different “spokes,” depending on their values and lifestyle. However, the general idea is to spend meaningful time in each area. When we don’t, we start to resent our jobs, resent our families and experience aches and pains in our bodies.
You may be thinking it’s too late for you. You may be thinking you don’t have control over many of the things in your life and it’s impossible to make changes. I see these kinds of shifts happen every day in students that start a yoga practice. All it takes is that first step. The amazing thing is once you take the first step, you will start to feel better and more in control. This will give you the motivation to take a second step and then a third. From there, you’ll gain momentum and pretty soon, you’ll be on your way!