Balance in yoga – more than just standing on one leg…



This week I made ‘balance’ the focus of my yoga classes. 

Of course, yoga is all about balance.  The origin of yoga asana (asana being the physical posture) is Hatha Yoga.  Ha (Sun) Tha (Moon).  Balancing energies – sun and moon, feminine and masculine, strength and flexibility, still, slow and soft (yin), with dynamic, fast and strong (yang).   

Our yoga asana practice enables us to learn how to balance our energy and our physicality.  Some people are naturally very flexible – however, whilst they may be flexible, there isn’t strength and structure to the practice – and for those with hypermobility in the joints, the lack of structure and strength can lead to injury. Conversely, some people may be very strong yet have little flexibility – and again, using strength to force oneself into a posture can lead to problems. 

Just as if we were a ‘see saw’ – it’s about balancing our practice so that we’re centred and balanced. Overload things too much at one end and the equilibrium that we create as a balanced ‘see saw’, tips.

Talking of equilibrium – this is where I find practicing balancing postures really does come into its own.

There’s always a mild groan from my class members when I mention that we’re going to be doing some standing balances.  Exploring why that is, I know from my own experience, standing balances are challenging. Not only do they require the body to be strong – they challenge the mind. After all, standing on one leg is not a natural occurrence. (Unless you’re a flamingo of course).

Often we fall out of our standing balances – whether we’re in tree pose (vrksasana) or attempting a half moon pose (ardha chandrasana) – some days our balance is there, and we can focus and ease in and control the wobbles and find stability – and others, it’s just not.  Much of how we manage those balancing postures is directly correlated with what’s going on in our minds.

Balancing postures require alignment, strength and fundamentally, attention. When we’re transitioning into the postures we’re super focused – and then to stay there and find that stability and ‘equilibrium’ – requires continued attention. The minute we drop that attention – we wobble and may fall out.

The key here is to watch this internal and external dance – be present with it, and be okay with it. Falling out is all part of the practice – don’t get frustrated by it, but rather celebrate it a little – as the falling out gives you the opportunity to focus that attention again.  Mindfulness in true practice.

Having taught three ‘balanced’ focused classes, when prepping for those classes, I have to say, I personally grew to love my half moon asana – finding real mental and physical nourishment in not only the balance, but the mental focus and attention on the continuous micro movements going on in the body to keep me there.  Indeed, when the lovely guru, BKS Iyengar described balancing postures as aligning ourselves with the earth’s gravitational field – he clearly knew what he was talking about.

Embrace the balancing postures… as whilst they may initially seem challenging, the physical and mental rewards are immense. 

Michelle Carvill is founder of Yoga Central, Vinyasa Flow Yoga Classes in Maidenhead, Berkshire. See here for classes.