What Yoga Teaches Us About Balance
by Lisette Cheresson, SYF Communications Director
photo by Ty Dobbs
The autumnal equinox is upon us — the moment of equal parts light and dark, night and day; the moment when the world is in a state of balance, at least on its axis. It ushers in the changing of the seasons, a moment of transition from the levity and playfulness of summer to the beginning of a more introspective season brought on by those shorter days and nights.
Yoga is many things, of course, but can be at its foundation viewed as a practice of balance; both physical and metaphysical, in mind and in body, in philosophy and in practice.
The idea of balance is touted often in asana classes: classes are sometimes constructed entirely upon sequences that build to a peak balance pose. Instructors will often use postures such as Tree Pose to illustrate that the sense of inner calm necessary to hold the pose can be illustrative in other moments or challenges in life. The resiliency required by balancing asanas can be viewed in other contexts as lessons for living a more balanced life.
The more general teachings of yoga are also pertinent as we explore the idea of balance in practice. We seek the balance of integrated movement and breath. We aim to live a life in pursuit of service to others and in the knowing of our interconnectedness. When living in integrity of our dharma, we seek balance of personal goals with those of our human family as a whole. We are called to explore the balance of light and dark in our lives, and strive for living in the light even while acknowledging the shadow of our darkness.
Sutra 2.46, “sthira sukham asanam,” can be interpreted as a philosophical call to balance. It translates to an instruction that postures need be both steady and easeful; that when we come to practice meditation or asana, we are seeking that balance of effort and ease. We open our minds and hearts to meditation when we are able to sink into our breath, and be fully in the present, without being aware of pain or unease in our physical bodies. We are in the most expressive version of asana when we are steady and still in our expression — not when we hit the most “advanced-looking” version. The balance of ease and effort defines the way that we integrate our yoga into our selves, and informs the way these lessons show up in our everyday lives.
And so, on this autumnal equinox, may you find both comfort and inspiration in your practice, and in the natural world as we tip the scales toward winter. Happy fall!