Physical Balance

In my last post I wrote generally about balance of body, mind, and emotions.  This time I want to focus on creating physical balance. In hatha yoga, we begin with the physical body because it is the part of ourselves that we can see, touch, use, feel, experience. Keep in mind that any benefit gained in one are (physical, mental, or emotional) produces greater well-being in all.

Beginning with the physical is wise as well as practical.  Calming the mind or emotions, for example, can be impossible if the body chemistry is out of wack. For example, I was in my late twenties when the medical world came up with the  concept of PMS (premenstrual syndrome).  It was a significant breakthrough for women because with identification comes information on how to create balance within the experience.

I read everything I could get my hands on, which actually wasn’t much.  This was pre-internet so magazine, books, talk shows were the best source for current information.  I began paying attention and realized that excessive caffeine, sugar, salt, and a lack of exercise and rest intensified my mental and emotional ups and downs for a week before menses onset as well as the week during as well. That is half of every month!!  As I learned to limit the intake of these foods while walking more (and eventually joining the new rage of jogging), mood swings lessened significantly. I slept better, thought more clearly and joyfully experienced a lessening of the intensity of cramping and headaches.  Life was oh-so-much better!

This experience opened my mind to the idea of the interaction of body, mind, and emotions.  Over the years I have discovered what best keeps me in balance.  I am now post-menopausal so that is no longer an issue.  Now there are other physical issues, like keeping a healthy blood sugar balance because I have a tendency toward hypoglycemia, monitoring blood pressure, cholesterol levels, etc.

Do I have a formula to offer you?  Nope.

I do have a few suggestions.

Pay attention to:  your physical energy levels with relationship to different types of food,  how you digest different foods.  For example, I noticed in my late thirties that raw onions were no longer something I could digest well.  If you aren’t sure how to evaluate your diet for your age, general condition, etc. perhaps your doctor can refer you to a reliable nutritionist.  It helped me immensely.

Ask yourself simple questions and look at the answers honestly and without judgement:  Do I eat regularly throughout the day so that my energy stays steady?  Am I willing to let go of things that undermine balance and health – like an overabundance of sodas or sweets?  Do I eat more fresh foods that processed foods?  Have I learned to read labels?  Do I get enough rest or am I regularly running myself into the ground?  Have I found a form of exercise that suits my lifestyle and current physical condition?  Do I make time for that a sufficient number of times each week?  Am I willing to try something that is out of my comfort zone, like yoga, meditation, or tai chi?

Talk to people who stay fit, laugh a lot and enjoy their lives.  Never hesitate to ask for guidance or help with creating a balanced, healthy life.

Keep on keepin’ on until new behaviors become part of your normal routine.  You deserve to feel good and enjoy life.

Try stuff.  If something isn’t a fit for you, try something else.  There is no one way that works for everyone.  You get to choose but choose you must.

Above all, find what works for you.

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Yin/Yang as Contrast

In my last entry I referred to dark/light as an example of Yin/Yang. The first thing that comes to mind when I think in these terms is black and white photography. This is one of my favorite artistic mediums. The edges are much more apparent than they are in color photography. More is left to the imagination because of the lack of other colors. The shadows or dark areas give definition and clarity to the light. Rather than working against the light, the dark supports the light, making it shine brighter.

In belief systems grounded in judgement, light and dark are seen as good and bad. The terms positive and negative carry connotations of judgement, even though scientifically these terms denote opposite sides needed to create a balance of function (as in the two ends of a battery + and -). When we automatically judge something as negative or bad, we deny ourselves the understanding that balance requires two sides to act as counter-weights for one another.

Emotions are judged harshly if they have been labeled as negative. Fear is deemed negative in the Western mind and yet, in Eastern philosophy, it is seen as one of the Master Teachers. Legitimate fear can save your life. Unrealistic fear can paralyze you. Learning from your fear can increase your self-awareness and nurture your spiritual growth. Sitting with an intense and uncomfortable emotion brings insight and often healing. Sit quietly and ask “Fear, what have you come to show me?” Then listen with an open mind and heart for the answer.

I have shifted the way I language emotions because even extreme happiness can stress the body and the mind, creating imbalance. I now assess (rather than judge) my emotions in terms of intensity. I am currently experiencing wonderful times with my family and the intensity of joy and fulfillment feels overwhelming at times. If I were grieving, it would be tempting to fight against the experience rather than embrace it. In both cases, it is a matter of the intensity of the emotions I am experiencing. As the intensity rises so does the sense of being overwhelmed. In both situations, the answer is to embrace the experience and be aware of what I need to remain balanced physically, mentally and emotionally. Imbalance in either direction (joy or sorrow) can, over time, lead to exhaustion and illness.

I am passionate about life. Human beings experience life through their senses and that includes emotions. When I am out in nature, I stop and drink in the visual wonder of it all. I take deep breaths and smell what is around me. I close my eyes and listen. I pay attention to the memories and/or emotions that these sentient stimulants evoke in me. I want it all.

At the same time, I seek balance so that my responses (physical, mental, emotional) do not toss me around or throw me against the walls of my life. Been there; done that. It is exhilarating to soar (yang) and necessary for my health to come back to earth (yin) and walk in balance.