My first yoga teacher, and the teacher that influenced my life the most, always says that Child’s Pose is a very advanced yoga pose. She views practitioners as very advanced if they choose child’s pose instead of constantly choosing to take vinyasas in a flow class. I thought this was ridiculous at first, but it was quite profound for me when I actually understood what she meant. She was saying that choosing to take care of our Self in the moment, regardless of what our ego or others are telling us to do, shows that we are following our intuition and choosing what’s best for us. It’s about finding balance between the strength and the softness, the work and the rest. Finding balance seems to be a constant theme in my life. Whether I’m seeking it in my own life, teaching my clients to strive for it as a therapist, or guiding my students towards it as a yoga teacher, it’s what the conversation always comes back to – creating balance. In psychology, we see mental health as being balanced in all areas, not having too much or too little of something. Like with our relationships with our families of origin, for example. We can either have “enmeshed relationships”, where we’re very close to members of our family to the point that we are upset when they are upset. Or we might be “disconnected” from our families of origin, where we are holding on to past injustices or old grudges and not speaking to them. Both are on either sides of the spectrum, and both are troubling for healthy relationships and individuals. The goal, rather, is to aim to be somewhere in the middle – supportive but not dependent, involved but unaffected. We all have our own idiosyncrasies that resemble some quality of mental illness (you always hear people saying things like, “I’m so OCD” or “he’s bipolar!”), but it only becomes a true diagnosable problem when it’s on the high or low end of the spectrum and is interfering with our daily functioning. No one is perfect, but learning to maintain composure, clarity, and to breathe evenly in the face of adversity or frustration is one of the benefits that our yoga practice provides.
Learn to Live a Little!
Speaking of yoga, we work to find our balance with our practice. This may look different for everyone, whether it’s committing to the mat on a consistent basis, or learning to back off and have a rest day. Part of yoga is practicing our skills off the mat, which includes practicing the skill of letting loose and of not being so rigid with our Selves. The goal of life is different depending on whom you ask, but one skill we cultivate through our practicing is finding presence in each moment. In life, this might look like learning to let go. Learning to enjoy the highs and lows of life without attaching meaning or judgment to our experiences. Easier said than done, but coming back to practicing compassion for our Selves and others is where the work lies.
The weekend rolls around and you’ve worked so hard all week. You’d like to hang out with friends and enjoy a beer (maybe alongside some yoga), but there’s a voice in your head nagging you to “be responsible” and “hit the gym instead” or ___________ (insert negative thought here). It comes back to the idea of the spectrum. On the spectrum of having a beer with your friends, there’s a wide range of choices. You can choose to be rigid, not meet up with friends, and not have a beer (or any fun) or you can choose to go all out and drink a 12-pack. Or you can choose balance – have a drink or two (or three) and enjoy yourself. Leave the judgment at home and fulfill your soul when the opportunity arises, just don’t go all out (Just in case: yoga for one too many). We all need interaction and to be carefree. There are enough people in the world waiting to pass judgment at you for this or that. Leave the heavy lifting to them and drop the weight off your shoulders. Live your freaking life and have some fun! Focus more on finding where the fulcrum point is and less on berating yourself for following your heart’s desire. How do you know if you’re following your intuition, after all? Simple – are you having any fun?