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Iam Yoga has a new blog!

By Lisa Kitteringham

Photo credit: Tami Klein

Photo credit: Tami Klein

Welcome to the Iam Yoga blog! Here we'll be sharing our musings on life, the universe, and everything... It's big, I know. We will have lots of guest writers so that our blog is like our studio - rich in community and full of diverse perspectives and ideas. Want to contribute? Email lisa@iamyoga.ca with your topic!

This first blog post is about balance: a bit of a buzzword in the yoga world and one that can quickly lose its meaning when overused.

Now, I'd like to harken back to high school and start with a definition. "Balance," among its many other definitions, is used "(in winemaking) (to mean) the degree to which all the attributes of a wine are in harmony, with none either too prominent or deficient." That might the best definition of balance that I've ever seen, particularly (and this is important) in terms of application. The IDEA of balance is all very well and good, but I think there is this idea in the yoga world that "balance" means always fitting in your yoga practice and taking time to smell the roses every day and spending time being creative and having time to do nothing and having a solid self-care regimen and, and, and. It's a to-do list of "should" and it can be unrealistic.

All of those things are awesome. But depending on where you are in life, your priorities might be somewhere else. Personal sidebar: Like every single person I know, I have a lot going on at the moment. I’m growing two businesses and planning my wedding and teaching 15+ classes a week. My schedule is not conducive to taking time to smell the roses. So, how is it possible to maintain a semblance of balance when your to-do list is neverending?

Here’s my philosophy on the subject: balance means feeding all the different parts of you. Maybe that means a balance between work and play; maybe it means a balance between work and work. For me, teaching feeds my social, connective brain. My businesses feed my detail-oriented, task-completion brain. My self-care regimen consists of prioritizing sleep and practicing once or twice a week – it’s not a lot, but it works for me RIGHT NOW.

The trick, I think, is to find pleasure in the everyday things that you do in order to become present to whatever is happening in the moment. There are a few tricks to becoming “present” – another buzzword in yoga that gets overused. When you’re with a loved one, look into their eyes and really pay attention to what they’re saying. Try noticing the movement of your breath, or noticing the sensation of your clothing against your skin, or feeling your feet against the ground. These exercises can be particularly helpful when trying something for the first time (like a yoga class). They can also be helpful if you’re feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, or bored at work. You can also try thinking about the parts of your job that challenge and excite you, and prioritizing those tasks as much as possible.

Imbalance happens when an attribute (going back to the wine-making definition) becomes prominent or deficient. When I can’t take my eyes off my phone even though I’m supposed to be spending time with my partner (guilty) – that’s imbalance. If I’m doing a vinyasa-heavy physical yoga practice every day and it’s causing pain – that’s also imbalance. If I’m taking time to stroll to an appointment and it means being late and causing stress for both myself and others – that’s also imbalance. And these definitions change as we go through life. My priorities are in a very specific place right now but in a couple of years they might be way different.

The presence of work AND play AND rest doesn’t automatically create balance. The creation of balance comes from the constant application of mindfulness – and I am defining “mindfulness” here as a state of being present to the current state of your body and what you need in the moment – mindfulness about what feeds the different parts of you, and mindfulness about your state of mind as you engage with your everyday tasks.

What does balance mean to you? What feeds the different parts of you? Answer in the comments below!

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