Life is a balance of letting go and holding on
So this semester, I am taking a yoga class as part of my daily schedule. I’ve never taken a yoga class, so I thought it was a great opportunity to finally have some professional guidance, and believe me, it’s a lot harder physically and mentally than it looks, but simultaneously incredibly rewarding. It’s been 4 weeks, and I’ve been able to learn a lot about my body. And have found ways to appreciate just how limitless it is, celebrating what it can do rather than what it can’t. The benefit of an instructor also means that I am educated on the meaning of each position and how it helps the mind as well as my body.
Today, I want to focus on two lessons that really opened my eyes.
The first was the lesson on balance. Personally, I’ve learned to physically balance; from training in tennis, learning to be balanced when you land on one leg, and the usual fundamentals of balance. I have also learned as I was growing the importance of the term balance in daily life: balancing social life and school life, work life and personal life etc. Balance is therefore clearly a word that is often used, and as a result, has many meanings. Yet one thing that it definitely implies, is to make use of something when something else is missing. Physical balance is important because it allows you to stand when you don’t have the function of both legs. Emotional/psychological balance is important because it helps you keep calm or focused when something else is desperately trying to steer your focus away. At least, for the last 20 years of my life, this is how I perceived balance to be.
Then my instructor defined balance, and it really struck a chord:
Balance is not stationary. It is not about staying still, it’s about understanding the push and pull from the 4 axis (north, south, east, west) and to allow the constant movement, and about accepting and going with the movement.
What does this mean?! Well, this is my interpretation (and the wonderful thing about yoga is that every pose has a different meaning for each individual). Balance is not about making the most of a situation when there is something missing. It does not even necessarily mean that something is lacking. Rather, balance is about harmonising the constant forces around you that are tugging at you for attention. In order to stand straight with a good posture, you have to use the north and south axis (the forces that pull at your head and push from your feet), and combine the two. You are using both the force of gravity but also the force that’s not gravity at your head, so that you do not fall over. Balance, is therefore about constant movement. Not necessarily visible movement, but to know that there is definite movement within that you are controlling. Balance is not about being stationary because being stationary means resistance. The body is naturally inclined to keep moving, and so being still is resisting its natural inclination. And this point in particular is true not just physically, but also emotionally and psychologically. We are naturally inclined to constantly have thoughts, and balance does not mean to suppress them. It’s means to move with them, mould them, shape them into thoughts that are more positive and helpful. Basically it was here I learned the meaning of “sound body, sound mind” in that the body and mind are similar because they need constant shaping, constant movement. It’s hard but important not to resist and use the movement for positivity.
The second lesson was from the class where we did inversions. My God. Inversions are the scariest thing, because you have to bend your back and spine in ways that is not only painful (hence the title of this post) but also just seems so unnatural. The first explanation of the meaning of inversions that our instructor gave was that inversions look towards the future. Because you are bending your back, you are ultimately stretching out the front of your body, where the heart is then completely open. The opening up movement allows for the front muscles to relax, and therefore also help you feel more positive and mindful at the end of the practice. What was interesting was her point that the natural stance of humans is slightly rounded at the front, to protect our heart from harm. In other words, instinctively we are closed. A lot of muscle therefore builds up at the front, which can leave you a little more negative than usual. By opening up, you not only let go of all inhibitions and the mental limits placed on you (which was definitely there because I didn’t think I could do backbends), and instead leaves you exposed to you and all the potential stored in your body. It truly was such a inspirational lesson because (believe it or not) I did feel I broke a mental barrier in how I put limits on myself, and helped me gain a much more inspired and positive outlook. It’s one of those things that because it really does hurt because you’re stretching really big muscles, and going against natural postures, you probably won’t do everyday, but on days you feel a bit negative, it’s great to restore positivity.
Anyway, the conclusion is that there is so much to be learned through yoga, and despite only being 4 weeks in, I am learning a lot. It just goes to show how much there is to still learn about our body and our mind, but also helps one really appreciate the vast abilities of our tiny bodies.
Happy weekend to you all. x