The Paradox of Finding Balance

"So, finding balance causes stress?" my yoga therapist asked me during a recent session. There was something so paradoxical yet precise about the combination of words she used. I mean, isn't balance suppose to be the antidote to stress?

On the most basic level, our body's natural drive is to maintain homeostasis, to seek balance internally despite external conditions. More broadly, we know that a balanced diet, balance between work and play, balance between self-care and care taking, balance between doing too much and too little balances our physical, emotional, and mental energies.

Be in balance and stress less, so the logic goes.

"Yes, balance is stressful," I replied. "Finding balance is overwhelming. There's not enough time in the day to be in balance."

As a new business owner as well as a mother of two young girls and wife, I've been working overtime. Busting my ass, to be precise, and loving every minute of it. The past year as been exhilarating. Between creating a website (two actually), networking, writing, teaching, working with clients, preparing for conferences, leading seminars, and yoga therapy training, I've been putting myself out there in big new ways.

As rewarding as all this has been and continues to be, I've been lax about putting limits on how much I work. And to be honest, I'm feeling it. I have less energy, high blood pressure, and the occasional shortness of breath. I run low on patience and am prone to overreacting. 

My body is pleading for balance, and I'm finally listening.

My brilliant yoga therapist pointed out that, although it's great I am "putting myself out there," externalizing myself in such an out of balance way is sucking my inner energy. "You need to put a cap on all this 'out there,'" she gently but directly suggested. "To encourage balance, find ways to get back to you and bring energy from your mind into your body."

I've been spending so much time in my head thinking, strategizing, learning, creating, etc, that I am not appreciating the world around me. I'm not present. If I pull back some, she explained, I will have time and space to absorb energy and balance out how much I am giving out.

We came up with 3 simple, quick practices to help me balance the energy of my mind and my body, and I would like to share them with you.

  1. Feed Your senses. Set a timer for three times a day to pause and notice the colors of the natural world. Linger on a color or shape that you find particularly pleasing. 
  2. Deep breathing. Pause in between tasks to do some deep breathing to calm the central nervous system and nourish your body and brain's cells and tissues. Hint: This is a great one to do at traffic lights.
  3. Grounding exercises. To take a break from thinking, plant both of your feet on the ground, softly gaze forward, and pause for a few breaths. Feel the floor under your feet. Look around and feed your senses. Do any movement or activity that fosters a sense of grounding and presence in the world to take a break from intensive thinking.

These practices have helped me pause and rest my brain from time to time. I am finding that pausing begets more pausing. Also, guilt from taking breaks or fear of not completing a task crop up less and less. After all, it's those negative feelings and beliefs about taking the time to get in balance that are the crux of the problem--the TRUE source of stress. Right? 

My work as a yoga teacher and yoga therapist naturally leads me to talk about balance with my students and clients. I am grateful to be able to speak to this topic from a deeply authentic place, from the struggle to find balance in my own life and the negative beliefs that ultimately perpetuate that struggle. I am also happy to have a few practices to share around mind/body balance. And doing them takes no time from a task or the day. So there's no excuses here! 

Do you have any practices that you do to help you bring balance into your day? If so, please share in the comments. We can all benefit from your insight and experience.