It's all a balancing act
What springs to mind when someone mentions balancing in yoga? Standing on one leg maybe? Of course one-legged poses are sometimes part of a vinyasa flow class but it can go much further than that. Balance in the skeleton and muscles can lead to internal balance of bodily functions (think hormones as part of it), the mind and emotions. Starting with one-legged poses is a start on the journey into the self. It can feel like hard work but using a firm foundation and the breath helps us get a good start. Here's 3 reasons to love one-legged poses combined with the breath and what they can lead to.
1. Learn to go with the flow
BKS Iyengar, the yoga master, once visited San Diego Zoo and noticed a flamingo fast asleep standing stock still on one leg while all its neighbours were squawking and eating and generally being flamingoes. He said to the yoga teachers he was with, "Can you relax like that?".
Of course for humans it's not that easy to stand still on one leg as it demands a lot of concentration, attention and focus. Naturally you have to drop all other thoughts to focus on staying upright. That's why balancing poses in yoga can instill a deep sense of calm even though they require intense concentration.
2. Don't be afraid to wobble
Balance requires a bit of wobbling about. If you don't wobble you might look balanced but probably too rigid and then eventually you'll end up falling over. It's not just your own centre of gravity at work - we align our body with the earth's. This equilibrium isn't absolutely still, you need to constantly re-adjust muscles and bones into balance but also nerve impulses, thoughts, emotions and consciousness. Think of a tree bending with the wind. Equilibrium brings calm.
If you're worried about falling over and looking daft, first off, does it really matter if you keep dropping a foot down? Not really. In fact, it's probably quite entertaining. But try and give yourself a fighting chance and start with a firm foundation - the feet. Think about your base, spread your toes, feel the corners of your feet and the heel connect with the floor. This is the start of a chain reaction up the legs, into the hips, torso and up to the head. If you're centre of gravity is right above your base you'll balance.
3. Find balance within yourself
Remember that yoga means union - balance of left and right, balance of mind and body, balance of hormones and blood pressure, balance of thoughts and emotions. Use your practise on the mat to find balance in the rest of your life. If you feel balanced then you can use that positive energy and attitude in everyday situations and the stress gets less. Clear the mind and focus on the present moment.