Balance is dynamic: find your ballast
Staying close to the stablising forces around us allows us to remain present for the dynamic experience of life. By Lauren Bloxham
Thinking of balance, what do you imagine? A pose, an experience, a feeling, or an image? Is there an expectation that balance is rigid, fixed or still? Or perhaps it's flexible, softer, and more yielding?
Identifying our expectations around balance is important because balance can so often feel elusive. It can feel as though we're off balance or that balance is impossible to achieve and unless we have a healthy understanding of what balance really is, it's almost impossible to return to it.
When we explore balance in our yoga practice, initially, we experience all the wobbles that come with it: the spatial awareness that needs to be developed; the brain-body connection and feedback from the feet, arms and structures that support us; the anchoring of the gaze; the settling of the breath; and then, ultimately, with time and practice, the felt sense of balance.
What is the experience of balance though? Within asana there is focus, there is a stilling of the eyes towards a single point, there is contact with stabilising forces around us, whether that's the ground, the wall, or a chair. In the centre of it, there is the body, and the inner capacity to stay focused. When the brain registers balance there is a softening into the pose; we can stay with it comfortably and confidently.
What there isn't though, in any balance posture, is rigid stillness. Balance requires us to stay soft and yielding as the heart is beating, the lungs are breathing, and there are sounds and movements all around us. Balance is a dynamic experience.
Exploring balance from a position such as savasana can illuminate the deeper layers of movement within us. Although the physical body may be more comfortable and confident, in savasana, it's possible to be more attuned to the mind and its fluctuations. When life is full and demands on our time and resources are high, the mind can be loud, demanding, and furious. When there is contentment, the mind can be experienced more gently.
Whatever the experience is, it's the soft, yielding nature of acceptance that allow us to bear with ourselves. When we carve out time for physical stillness, we can become acutely aware of just how dynamic the inner experience is, and just how turbulent the mind can be. The practice becomes about occupying a broader perspective and becoming our own subtle stabilising force; this is what allows us to stay with the dynamic experience of the mind, confidently.
Finding our ballast
Life is a journey
Just as ships need ballast to provide stability, and that ballast needs to shift and change according to conditions and to the load that's being carried, we too need to find our ballast. There are people, places, practices, and rituals in our lives that help to keep us on course. We relate and interact with those things differently at different times to provide us with the stability we need, whether that's physical or more subtle.
Sometimes though our life's circumstances throw us into unchartered waters, which can feel like exploring a balance pose for the first time...wobbly, impossible to stay with even. The frustration we feel can lead us to experience doubt in ourselves. We can lose faith in our ability to cope and revisit our fears about ourselves and life.
Being thrown off-balance can be an opportunity for growth though, just as we search for what stabilises us within asana through the felt experience and our spatial awareness, so we search for what stabilises our experience of being during life's greatest challenges.
Take a moment to reflect on your life to date: the relationships, experiences, travels you have been on. Reflect on the challenges you've been through, the highs and the lows. Bring to mind the measure of your successes and your losses, your sorrows, and your celebrations. Recall the times in between when there has been ease and contentment.
With your rich and dynamic life in mind, focus in on those people, places and practices that have remained constant throughout. Maybe there's a place you visit that fills you up, a practice you return to often and people that have been with you through it all. This is your ballast.
During life's most challenging moments you may have drawn on those stabilising forces around you, and even added to them – whether that's more frequent contact with people, practices that served you daily, or visits to the places that fill and restore you. At other times there may be more distance, or perhaps you have been and continue to be ballast in someone else's life? The natural ebb and flow of life's circumstances means we have to adjust frequently to stabilise ourselves and our loved ones.
To date though, you have survived all of your wobbles, you have come through all of your challenges, and you have moved from doubt to confidence in body and in mind. None of us know what life will throw our way next. We can't foresee our future challenges, we may even be in the thick of them now, but we do know that there are establishing forces around us. There are our people, our places and our practices which lead us to feel supported, stay focused and bring compassionate awareness to the dynamic experience as it unfolds for us. Reminding ourselves of these often leads us to truly embody our experience of balance.
Practice yoga with Lauren Bloxham online (blackdogliving.com), in person in West Cornwall, or on retreat: 'Embodying the Elements' at Bala Brook retreat centre, Dartmoor National Park, April 20-23, 2023. Connect on Instagram @blackdogliving