Guest blogger: Louise Bennett (Chintanshuddhi)
I’m revisiting balancing postures in yoga. To be honest, as a teacher, I usually add a balancing pose into the mix towards the end of a class, mainly because I’m trying to cover every category. Sadly, it often becomes a ‘token’ posture. This is because many students feel intimidated and embarrassed by balancing poses. They hate to appear hopeless in front of the group – they feel that everyone is watching them wobble and tumble!
Why do so many people struggle with balancing? It’s not just the seniors and novices who struggle with balancing poses in yoga – it’s often seasoned practitioners and even teachers. What’s going on?
And outside the yoga classroom, if we examine our daily lives, balance is often the most neglected aspect. Lack of balance is reflected in many ways. Probing deeper, balance is crucial in achieving happiness, prosperity and health. Without it we become lopsided.
Some benefits of balancing poses at a glance:
These rich benefits follow us off the mat and into our lives. A balanced mind and body = a happy, wise person.
The impact of imbalance in life
Without applying the subtle art of balancing, lots of things can go askew. So, it’s time to think about not just improving your balancing poses in yoga, but also balancing a few of the following:
Do a balancing pose when you're off-centre
The balancing act of life isn’t really a cliché. Every day I ask myself: How can I balance my day today so that I can do, be and feel balanced in between. Sure, I fall off the edge now and then, but I’m getting better at re-balancing myself.
If possible, I will do a balancing yoga pose if the day’s gone off kilter, and this really helps me on all levels. You’d be surprised at how a simple balancing pose can affect the mind and emotions.
Try the simple tree pose as follows and see the effect on your mood:
TREE POSE (Vriksasana)
Balancing poses and the elderly
I’ve been so inspired by seniors who are dedicated to yoga, and especially inspired by their ability to perform balancing postures. What an amazing gift they’re giving their bodies and minds as they enter old age. In fact, they don’t look old at all!
One student of mine was 80 and did the most beautiful, graceful yoga postures. She didn’t need a walking stick or a frame and was in great shape, looking 20 years younger than her age! Learning to balance ourselves into old age is so important to avoid injury and loss of independence and confidence.
You can read more about loss of balance as we age here.
Balancing meditation and enlightenment
Balance enters the philosophical and spiritual realms as well. As human beings, living in ‘duality’, we ride a daily roller coaster of likes and dislikes, joys and sorrows, and all the experiences in between. And even in less extreme situations, our pendulum swings 24/7: from passive to aggressive, positive to negative – and never fully resting in the centre.
In spiritual life, we aim to find and sustain the ‘centre’ of our being, because that’s when self-realization can happen. A balanced mind becomes like a clear lake, still and deep. It can reflect pure consciousness.
In some meditation practices, centring can be an important technique to bring about inner balance and illumination. In the book Zen Flesh Zen Bones (by Paul Reps) there’s a whole section devoted to meditative balancing techniques to open the many portals into ‘being’.
To sum up, balancing poses are a great way to improve your balance (and avoid the walking stick when you get old). Even if you struggle with balancing postures, you can gradually improve your ability to perform them, and reap the incredible benefits.
Well, I’m off to do a balancing pose right now!
Please share this blog – it’s a free way to help others
Do share this blog post with others if you feel benefited. Yoga can change the quality of a person’s life in the blink of an eye.
Read more quality information about balancing postures:
Balance Me Beautiful has an excellent article here.
And a Yoga Journal article here.
About the guest author
Louise Bennett (Chintanshuddhi) lived for many years in India, studying and teaching yoga and meditation in a traditional ashram. She now lives in the Blue Mts, near Sydney (Australia) and is a yoga and meditation teacher and freelance copywriter, specialising in the wellness market. Her website: louisebennettcopywriter.com
Disclaimer: The links given in this article are for general information only - they are not affiliate links.
Guest blogger: Louise Bennett (Chintanshuddhi)
The benefits of yoga on the body are well documented, but many people don’t know that yoga is seriously good for mental health too. Studies have even shown that regular yoga can prevent or dramatically improve the symptoms of Alzheimers and other forms of dementia.
You don’t have to practise intense yoga to reap its multitude of mental health benefits. Gentle yoga is often more powerful because it can reach deeper. I’ve experienced this first-hand with my own practice over the years, and through teaching yoga and meditation.
Mental benefits of yoga
All this equals a happier you!
The following yogic breathing practices are very easy and anyone can practise them safely. Try doing them as a mini-practice once a day for a week and see how you feel.
I personally benefit hugely from doing these before sleeping. It’s great to wind down after a busy day and reduce the mental impressions accumulated over the course of the day. This is also a great way to have sweeter dreams – to avoid strong, exhausting dreams or nightmares, which are usually caused by unresolved stress and tension in the brain.
Note that these practices may be performed sitting on a chair if that’s more comfortable for you than sitting on the floor. Or you can prop yourself up in bed with a comfy cushion supporting your spine.
Practice 1: Full yogic breathing (2-3 mins)
This is a super-quick stress-buster, and can be done anywhere, anytime. It also just brings you back to centre, no matter what your mental state is.
Take it slow if you’ve not done any yogic breathing before.
Sit or lie down with one hand on the belly and one on the chest to help track the movement of the breath. Start to breathe in a long, smooth, relaxed way through the following sequence:
Inhale – start at the belly, then slowly roll the inhalation up into rib cage, and finally the upper chest and shoulders (until your inhalation is completely full).
Exhale – Slowly roll the breath down from the upper body and finish at the belly (until there’s no air left in the lungs).
Rounds: Repeat 10 times or more, until there is control over the breathing process. Try not to force the breath – it should be a smooth, wave-like movement.
Benefits: All the stale air will be expelled from the lungs on the exhalation, and the inhalation will bring fresh air to all parts of the lungs. Mentally, you will find this practice calming and energising. It brings focus and clarity, and can also serve as a mini-meditation when you focus exclusively on counting the rounds and following the movement of the breath.
Practice 2: Humming breath (2-3 mins)
This is a tranquilizing practice which stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, relaxing the mind and relieving stress quickly. It’s also a powerful way to transcend mundane states of mind.
Sit comfortably with the spinal cord erect, and the head and neck in line with the spine. Close your eyes. Take a couple of deep breaths in and out, just letting go . . .
Now relax the jaw with the lips lightly touching and the teeth slightly parted. Raise the arms sideways, elbows bent, and use the index fingers to plug the ears, so that you can’t hear outside sounds. (Note: The flaps of the ears may be pressed if you wish to avoid placing fingers directly into the ears.)
Breathe in deeply through the nose and exhale as slowly as possible while making a steady, controlled humming sound. The sound should be smooth and continuous for the duration of the exhalation. The reverberation is felt in the front of the skull.
Rounds: Practise 8-10 rounds.
Benefits: Relieves stress, anxiety and may reduce high blood pressure. It can also help alleviate anger and insomnia. Try 10-20 rounds before sleeping at night and see the quality of your sleep improve.
Note: This practice is called Bhramari Pranayama in Sanskrit. It is an ancient yogic breathing practice that gives the added benefits of a mini-meditation.
So, you’ve just done about 4-6 minutes of yoga breathing (if you’ve done both practices). How do you feel?
I sincerely hope that you find some benefit in these practices. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please feel free to send a message via the contact form.
Please SHARE this post if you find it beneficial. It may help someone who really needs help! Yoga can change the quality of a person’s life, even simple practices like the ones above.
And for more quality information about yoga’s effects on the brain and mental health, I can recommend these two websites:
About the guest author
Louise Bennett (Chintanshuddhi) lived for many years in India, studying and teaching yoga and meditation in a traditional ashram. She now lives in the Blue Mts, near Sydney (Australia). She is a yoga and meditation teacher, soon to be offering workshops at UYoga Studio in Katoomba, Blue Mts.
She is also a freelance copywriter, specialising in the wellness markets.
Her website: louisebennettcopywriter.com