The Practice of Balance

Balance. In the dictionary, it is classified as a noun. But, Ganga White more accurately declared it as a verb in his book Yoga Beyond Belief. Balance is not a person, place or thing. It is perpetual action. No matter how basic a balance pose, you are constantly readjusting for stability. Nothing remains still. To the observer, it may appear static; however, the balancer knows different.

Balance demands composure and strength. It is essential for the body and mind to unite. Going to the extreme can make you topple over. Being too passive keeps you stuck in the same place.  Balance practice reveals how to focus and fortify determination. You gain wisdom of tipping points and how to adjust to change. Very beneficial lesson of life when off the mat.

In a yoga balance pose, the right and left hemispheres must work as a team. If the left side is trying to ascertain the next move, you'll probably wobble. If the right side is imagining what it's like to fly, you're liable to lose focus. Balance works a part in the middle of the brain to keep the two hemispheres united as a team. The corpus callosum is the part between the the right and left hemispheres so they can  intercommunicate. Ironic anatomical position...since balance requires you to find your middle ground.

Physically, the muscles are dynamically engaged. The pose determines the muscles worked. With all body parts interconnected, you can get quite a work out just doing sets of balance poses. Stay in
Eagle for a few minutes and notice the heat that builds up. Eagle demands the wings (arms) to interconnect for a firm hold. The deltoids assist in expanding the trapezius muscle. Move the linked arms slightly forward and you offer the rhomboids a subtle stretch.

As we move down the body, the spine and muscles surrounding it are focused on maintaining the foundation of balance. This is the middle ground of the opposite extending forces. The arms are reaching upwardly and the legs are focused on staying grounded. If you activate the core muscles just right, you feel the front and back work together. Try it. If you let the stomach remain soft and let the arms lower below shoulder level, you wobble more. If you contract the abdomen muscles to about 50% of your ability and keep the arms engaged upwardly, you will feel the difference in strength and balance. You discover balance is not exclusive to the feet.

The cool thing about balance is the elusive instabilities it uncovers. One side is easier than the other; what was stable one day is unstable the next; and, transitions of moves can be done in a methodical...inwardly focused manner. One actually practices being in the present moment. You determine, with practice, if it is the body or the brain that is out of balance. Awareness improves. Self judgement softens. Motivation transcends monotony. And, yes, the body gleans improved muscle mass.

Tree is a classic pose to keep on your pose agenda. The activated quadriceps of the "trunk" of the tree listen to the "roots" of your feet. Reaching the arms upwardly lifts the rib cage and give the intercostal muscles a stretch. The spine makes it possible to pull the core in and feel the back muscles team up with the abdomen muscles. You can open the arms... reach up higher...spread the fingers wide...or experience swaying gently side to side, like a tree does in heavy winds. The move is subtle; but, the revelation can be grand. Be the tree you can admire from within.

Balance. Not exactly moving, but not totally still. Opposing energies working together as they stay connected in the middle. How does one find the middle? That is like trying to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Suspend seeking the end result. Enjoy being embraced and finding equilibrium from your center. Everything thrives when in balance...even balance.

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