Balance can be hard to come by, both on and off your yoga mat. If you’ve felt the frustration of weebling and wobbling more than usual lately, you’re not alone. Stressful times throw off our physical practice and make finding our equilibrium that much more difficult.
And when we consider the strength of the mind-body connection, it makes perfect sense that stress affects our ability to master asanas that we might typically approach with ease.
The magic of yoga is that it offers infinite tools to help you self-regulate and find your calm. Even in moments where everything feels like it’s falling apart, it’s possible to bring yourself back to your steady, all-knowing center — mentally, physically and emotionally (it’s all connected!).
Below, check out our three best tips for achieving greater balance and reaping the benefits in all areas of your life.
Drishti: When the gaze is still, the mind is still.
Drishti is a gazing technique that helps us develop focus and concentration. It’s an exotic-sounding name for a simple concept: Where our eyes go, our attention follows. We’re all visual creatures, after all. Fixing your gaze on a point that doesn’t move enables you to tune out distractions with greater ease. For balance poses such as eagle, tree and Warrior 3, this technique can be a true gamechanger for finding a new level of steadiness and stability.
This isn’t meant to be a strenuous sort of stare by any means. Rather, it’s a soft, gentle gaze where your eyes rest on one unmoving spot. Practicing drishti calms the breath and the nervous system, and also helps you create a strong sense of being fully present in the moment.
Breath: When you breathe, you’re right here, right now.
Ever wonder why yoga teachers put such a strong emphasis on the breath? Conscious breathing has a remarkable impact on our mental, physical and emotional state.
Yet in our harried culture, it’s all too common for us to hold our breath when we’re stressed — which only causes us to further spiral. This type of raggedy breathing lights up the primitive, instinctual areas of the brain. Connecting to your breath, however, activates the cerebral cortex and more evolved parts of your brain, which elevates your mind and relaxes your emotions.
It also brings you into the present moment, which is a key component of balance. In general, you’ll want to inhale to lengthen (i.e. upward reach, upward facing dog, Warrior 1) and exhale to deepen or fold (i.e. forward fold, downward facing dog). There’s no need to get hung up on whether you’re doing the “right” breath when flowing — wherever you’re at, we promise that the simple act of breathing will enhance your experience, both on and off the mat!
Midline: Connecting to your center builds strength and stability from the inside out.
Chances are, you’ve heard at least one yoga instructor cue the class to “hug into the midline.” The midline isn’t necessarily a physical body part, but rather an energetic body part. You can imagine it as a vertical line that runs down the center of your body, extending directly above the crown of your head, through your torso and down into the floor between your feet.
Moving through your practice with an awareness of the midline can help you find your center, even in a room full of people. Whenever you’re feeling off-kilter, it’s a great idea to isometrically draw your feet, ankles, shins and inner thighs in toward the midline.
Find Balance at Haven on the Lake
Hopefully, an awareness of these three different elements of balance — drishti, breath and the midline — help make your yoga practice feel like a moving meditation. Remember, even the most experienced yogis fall out of balance poses from time to time…so don’t stress when it happens to you! Be gentle and patient with yourself, and enjoy the ride.
If you’re interested in flowing with us at Haven on the Lake, we offer a variety of yoga styles and classes suited for all levels. Feel free to learn more on our website. We’d love to see you!