"Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralysed.
Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding,
You may have heard it said that it’s important to find a balance in all things. But what does it really mean to be feeling balanced and how do we recognize when we might be feeling off kilter in a particular aspect of our lives.
You instinctively know when you’re feeling balanced as you feel like you’re not being pulled too hard in one direction more than another. You feel calm, centered, grounded and energized or you may feel that all the various aspects of your life are working together in harmony.
However, modern life has a tendency to ask more and more of us so that at times we feel too ’stretched open'. It may be that you’re pushing yourself too hard physically or mentally without creating enough time for your mind and body to rest, or perhaps you’re giving too much of yourself without allowing yourself to receive nourishment. We’ve all had moments when life’s demands have left us feeling stressed, scattered and unbalanced. The reasons are usually very individual to you.
In these moments, it’s helpful to have some simple tools to help us come back to our center and regain balance.
Integral to Traditional Chinese Medicine is the importance of balance to a person’s health and well-being. It recognises that certain symptoms, whether they are mild or more severe, are a way for the body to let us know that there is a physical and/or emotional imbalance. These symptoms may include low energy, anxiety or tension, headaches or poor sleep. Identifying aspects of your life that may be out of balance, and choosing carefully selected acupuncture points that are known for their potential to restore equilibrium to the mind and body, acupuncture is one way of helping you to feel more centered and relaxed.
In yoga too there are postures that can help you to regain a sense of balance and composure when life feels overwhelming or you’re feeling over-stretched. Balance postures like Tree pose which require you to root through your feet and lower your center of gravity to give you more stability can be a really useful way of finding your equilibrium - the intense concentration required to stay upright on one leg makes it very difficult to focus on anything else!
Over the years as an acupuncturist and yoga teacher I have found certain techniques really useful in helping you to regain balance, particularly during those stressful times:
1) Rooting - Sitting in a cross-legged position with your hands resting on your legs, sense into those places that make contact with the floor, such as your sit bones and the back of your thighs. Gently press your sitbones into the floor. Bring your awarenesss to the rise and fall of the belly as you breathe in and out, feeling the belly expand with the inhale and contract towards the spine with the exhale. As you’re belly contracts feel your pelvis gently rock back and your tailbone descend towards the floor, and as you inhale feel the pelvis tilting forward slightly. Listen to the sound of your breath.
2) Mountain pose - Stand with your feet hip distance apart. Feel into your feet: raise your toes and then spread them before lowering them back down. Feel all four corners of the feet making contact with the floor beneath you. Let the weight of the pelvis release into the thighs, the thighs release into the knees, the knees into the calves and shins and the calves and shins into the feet. Visualize your body as a tree, with your torso representing the trunk and your feet representing the roots. Then imagine that you’re feet have roots descending deep into the earth, feeling the strength and stability of your body as you become more rooted. Then bring your hands together at your heart to reaffirm the midline and center of the body.
3) Affirmations - These can be very reassuring and empowering when you’re life is feeling like it is out of control and you find yourself on a ferris wheel unable to get off! Quietly repeating to yourself words like “I can manage” “It will all get done” or “I am doing the best that I can” whilst breathing deeply can help you to reframe the way that you are feeling.
4) Gentle stretching - simple gentle stretches (if you’re already feeling over-stretched in your life then strong stretches may be counter-productive) can help to create a little more internal space even when you’re feeling outwardly pressured.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor, clasp your hands at your chest and then as your breathe out extend your arms, pushing the heels of the hands away from you to stretch the upper back, particularly the area between the shoulder blades, which is typically where we store tension. On your next inhale raise your arms above your head and stretch the sides of the torso, lifting the ribs away from the hips to help create more space between the ribs, which will allow your take in fuller more energising breaths. Release your hands and as you breathe out lower one hand to the right side of the floor beside you and reach over to the right with the left hand (making sure to drop you’re right shoulder away from your ears. Breathe in and out a few times before raising both arms to the ceiling again and repeating on the opposite side.
Life can feel quite chaotic and stressful at times but these simple tools can help you to balance times of expansion with small contractions that restore your sense of equilibrium.