In the Primary Series used by Astanga yogis, there is a pose I’m nowhere near able to get into called ardha baddha padmottanasana (say that three times fast), or half-bound lotus intense stretch posture. It looks like this:
A modification of a modification of that one is another posture in its own right, called vrikshasana, or tree pose. It looks like this:
I struggle with this one, too: balance has never been my thing. In fact, I recently found out that this is not just because I’m not trying hard enough: by nature of the fact that my great-grandmother, my grandmother and my mother all had or have something called genetic or hereditary neuropathy, there’s a pretty good chance I’ve got it, too. I’m not too terribly worried about it – while my grandma’s not at the height of her game, she was a sharp shooter up until 80+, as was my great grandma, and my mom comes to speak to me on Skype more often than not pulling off her gloves from working in the garden, returning from or on her way to a workout, or exhausted from a day filled with any number of physical tasks. I’m just annoyed that, from the little I can understand from what I’ve read on the interweb, I’m predisposed to the clumsiness that’s ailed me all my life. I am, quite literally, a natural-born klutz.
Balance is, of course, one of life’s great analogies…and one’s yoga practice is deeply and inextricably linked to one’s life circumstances and emotional wellbeing. But then, isn’t everything?
While I do my practice, most often I’m telling my brain to please shut up and be peaceful. But sometimes I forget to do that and my brain goes off into its own world filled with tangent upon tangent, and today I got to thinking about the many areas of my life – of all our lives – where we are constantly struggling to find balance.
The most obvious of these, of course, is work-life…we’ve all heard it a million times – will you lay on your deathbed wishing you’d worked more hours, etc., etc… But really and truly, don’t we all need to make a living, at any rate? It’s not as though the electricity company will understand if we explain that we can’t pay this month because we’re cutting out some of the working to make room for more of the living. And, for the record, what’s so bad about work being one’s life? Is it really so terrible to have a calling that consumes one completely, a raison d’etre? Kinda get the feeling that vacation time wasn’t at the top of Marie Curie’s priorities. But the truth of the matter is that work, for the vast majority of us, is not going to be all that profound and amazing, and more likely it’s going to be a big pain in the arse. Ergo, the perfect work-life balance equation should be such that the more we love our work, the less it pays, because the more we hate our work, the more time we need to do other stuff. Hmmm…not sure how that one’s gonna work in practice…anybody for burger-flippers earning more than NASA scientists? It only seems fair…
There’s also the balance of diet-exercise, by which I would like to stress at the top of my lungs (fingertips?) that I mean diet in the sense of what-one-eats, not in the sense of changing-how-one-eats-for-a-few-months-to-lose-those-pesky-pounds-and-then-going-back-again. As anyone who knows me will attest, I have been – as have most of you, I’m guessing – in turns too fat, too thin, just right, clueless and clued-in about my weight/fitness. Surely this should be the easiest of them all: If one eats more calories than one burns, one gains weight. If one burns more calories than one eats, one loses weight. And if one spends 15 minutes leafing through any fashion magazine in any country in the world, one becomes fat and horrible and ugly, no matter how well one eats or how often one works out. Solution, eat your veggies, take the stairs, and burn the Cosmo.
But the biggest struggle – the hardest balance of them all for me is something I have in the last 3 seconds decided to call the balance of aspiration-satisfaction. That is, the balance between aspiring to be better than I was yesterday and accepting and loving myself for who I am today. Two things I desperately don’t want, in no particular order: to resign myself to the notion that this is as good as it gets; to miss the beauty of the moment because I’m never happy with what I’ve got. So how, then, to be happy with what I am, while always striving to be better? Or rather, how to envision the possibilities whilst convincing myself this is good enough? Erm…??? And yet, we must, mustn’t we?
Last Sunday as Chris and I got ready to do vrikshasana, I said to no one in particular that I was probably going to fall, because I always fall in that pose – it’s just what I do. And then I didn’t. And a gust of euphoria swept through my being – a great whoosh of adrenaline that nearly reminded me of childhood in its innocence…until I started doing the happy dance (a cabbage patch of sorts, although if you click that link, I wouldn’t watch past 30 sec’s) and we agreed that I was probably letting my ego get a bit carried away – not really the point of yoga, after all. Then today, on my own, just couldn’t do it. I tried about 20 times – no luck.
I guess the point is that no matter how hard we work to find balance, sometimes we’re just going to fall. But other times, when we least expect it, when we’re not even looking or trying, there we are, on one foot, hands in prayer position (though not above our heads because we’re just not there yet), and it’s golden. Maybe trying so hard to find balance can lead to a bit of imbalance all by itself. Still, don’t think I’m about to stop trying.