Posted by: Bruce Black | November 1, 2017


Mountain Pose was the first balance pose that I learned, though I didn’t realize it was a balance pose at the time.

“Spread your feet shoulder-width apart,” instructed my teacher. “Draw your shoulder blades onto your back. Tuck in your tailbone. Puff out your kidneys. Let your spine extend fully upward and downward. Shine out!” Where was the balance in that? I was standing firmly on two feet. I was a mountain. Nothing could have shaken me out of that pose.

It’s taken years for me to understand that balance doesn’t have to mean trying to stand on one foot in Tree Pose or Warrior II or Eagle. These are balance poses that I struggled for years to learn so that, eventually, I could lift a leg without wobbling, shaking or shuddering. They were different than Mountain Pose. In Mountain Pose, I could stand, it seemed, forever without worrying about balance.

But over time I began to understand the idea of balance differently. Mountain Pose taught me that finding my balance didn’t apply solely to my physical balance, to the kind of balance required to stand on one foot. No, Mountain Pose suggested that balance might be something internal, emotional, spiritual. Balance might refer to how the different elements of the pose are balanced. In Mountain Pose, for instance, is each leg balanced symmetrically on the mat so I’m not placing more weight on one foot than another? Are my knees and hips balanced? Can I balance my tailbone as I bring my shoulder blades onto my back? Can I stand erect, radiating outward a balanced level of energy from all ten fingers and toes? Coming into balance means something different now than it meant when I first started practicing yoga.

When I move into Downward Dog now, I’m aware of it as a balance pose, too. No longer is Savasana a chance for me simply to lie down on my mat. It’s a balance pose, as well. When I step into Half Moon, I’m stepping not only into a balance pose on the mat, but into a balance pose that I can carry off the mat, a pose that helps me understand how to incorporate the principles of balance into my life.

Balance is crucial to keeping things in perspective. If I lose my temper in a conversation with my brother or my wife, I’ve lost my balance. If I find my desk inundated with so much paper that I can’t find its surface, I’ve lost my balance. If I find myself trying to do too many things, multi-tasking when I should be focusing on one or two things, I’ve lost my balance. Stepping onto the mat is what helps me recover my balance and helps me notice when my life off the mat may be off-balance. In Mountain Pose I remind myself that balance isn’t only applicable to my external pose, how I hold my body, but to my internal pose as well, how I interact with the world and act in relationships in that world.

Balance means finding that place of equilibrium on the mat and in my life. I can stand in Tree Pose and think I’m in balance, but I’m not in balance if my family life is in shambles or if I’ve just lost my job or if my father has just died. There is an emotional element to balancing which is easy to overlook.

You can treat any pose as a balance pose. Cat and Dog tilts, Seated Pose, Child’s Pose, Happy Baby Pose. Each pose helps us search for and find our equilibrium, both physically and emotionally.

Finding your balance requires patience and confidence. When you stand in Mountain Pose, raise your leg in Tree Pose, or lean forward in Half Moon Pose to touch the earth with your hand as your other arm reaches up to the sky, remember you are searching for balance not just in your pose but also in your life.

Journal Practice: How do you find balance in your poses? How do you become aware of balance–or lack of balance–in your life? Write: 10 min.


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