We all have two sides physically, mentally and energetically. Physically, one side tends to be longer or bigger and more or less dominant. Mentally, our left brain serves as the creative side while the right brain is more logical. Energetically, the left governs feminine and lunar qualities and the right masculine and solar. Given this full spectrum it is no wonder bringing balance into our yoga practice and daily lives can be a challenge. Thankfully, through presence and practice on our mat we can learn how to honor both sides bringing balance to our whole system, body, mind and spirit.Below is an easy to follow guide listing the importance and key alignment points for establishing a safe and effective balancing Asana practice. We will learn how to cultivate roots as foundation, a strong trunk for support, branches as a source of growth and a steady gaze for focus, just as a tree so beautifully does in it’s natural way of of being.
Our Root, Our Foundation
Importance: In order for a tree to grow healthy and strong it is crucial that that the tree has grounded roots that are showered with love and attention and the same is true for us. Setting up a proper foundation built on these principles is the first step towards approaching balance.
Key Points: Here are some key points that can be applied to practically all balancing asana whether utilizing one leg or one or both hands.
- Align standing foot parallel with the edge of your mat
- Utilize the full surface area of the foot by uplifting all 5 toes and spreading them well
- Feel how this uplifts the arches and brings even weight into the inner and outer ball and heel of the foot
- Keep this as toes lower down from the pinky to big toe
- Firm the center to the heel, middle outer edge of foot and big toe which would create a triangular shape if the points were connected
- Firm and uplift your quadricep
- Keep the inner thigh hugging towards the midline
- Spread hand(s) well
- Index fingers point straight ahead and parallel with one another
- Press firmly into the finger pads (especially thumb and index) , knuckles and outer edge of hand allowing for space at the center of the palm. Think of the palm like a suction cup
- Stack elbow over wrist and bring the shoulder in line with the elbow whether the arm is straight or bent at 90 degrees
- Firm the triceps in and bring the shoulder blades on to and down the back
- Create space in the armpits
Our Trunk, Our Support
If a tree was without a trunk it would fall over and no longer be able to grow. Which is the same for us as our core, or trunk, gives us the strength we need to stand tall. Creating strength in this region also fuels our confidence and our ability to keep going even if we fall out of a pose or the mind tries to psych us out.
- Draw the inner thigh(s) back
- Bring the abdomen in and up, tailbone down and in and pubis upward towards the navel to strengthen the abdominals and neutralize the pelvis
- Move the front ribs in and uplift the side waist from the outer hips up to the armpits
Our Branches, Our Growth
Importance: Once we have our roots and trunk established as a strong and steady base the arms are free to move into their fullest expression, just as branches would do. Allowing our arms to reach upward and out of the body lets our whole system know we are open to growth, expansion and receptivity.
Key Alignment Points:
Almost all balancing asana require external rotation in the upper arms which allows for an spacious and supportive shoulder girdle. To access external rotation here is a quick exercise:
- Take your arms up and overhead
- Turn your hands face the midline and align them over the shoulders
- Radiate length out through your fingertips
- Draw the pinky side of your hands towards the midline and then then continue towards the wall behind you. Feel what this does to your shoulders and outer upper arms
- Do and then don’t do and see if you can feel a difference. This action should bring the biceps by the ears creating external rotation in in the upper arm
- Keep the external rotation in the upper arms and only turn the palms and forearms to face the midline once again
- Now keep the shoulders and upper arms in external rotation as the hands and forearms isolate their movement to face forward, away from the body
Feel how you can keep the external rotation in the upper arms but can freely move the the forearm, wrist and hand. This will allow you to adapt to any given shape that may be called upon in a particular asana.
Our Gaze, Our Focus
Importance: Our gaze is a vital component of keeping the body and mind steady. Maintaining a single-pointed focus is helpful because, as we know, without focus our energy easily becomes scattered taking us out of balance in our practice and life.
Key Points: Let your eyes find a soft gaze on an unmoving point slightly above eye level. If we look down, chances are we will go down.
Practice and Life
Remember, the real art of balance comes from honoring the whole and whatever arises on both sides of the coin. When we approach our Asana practice with supportive thought and action whether we fall, wobble or remain steady we in turn invite this vital teaching into our everyday life, allowing for a brighter, more aware human experience.