This post originally appeared as September 2009’s focus of the month. It’s such a classic I decided to revive it, with a few edits.
September is a month known for transitions and changes, as we move away from one set of habits and behaviors to another. It often means back to work or back to school. Complacency, relaxation and reflection transform into times of preparation, industriousness, busyness. At our best, we welcome shorter days and a sun that burns cooler and feel satisfied at how productive we’ve become again! Then again, we also find ourselves mourning the loss of open-toed shoes (our best excuse for weekly pedicures), the abundance of watermelon margaritas in our lives, and we grow anxious and quiet about the cold, dark winter monster that lurks not far off. Or maybe that’s just me, is anyone else such an eternally, seasonally pessimistic mess?! It takes but one random, semi-chilly September morning to drive me straight to wool socks and cocoa. Most normal people seem to understand that summer will return, eventually. Good for them.
Our ability to remain in the present helps determine how likely we’re able to be balanced, healthy beings. Likewise our ability to stay balanced helps keep us rooted to the present as it unfolds. The greatest challenge at the turn of any season is to maintain a sense of wholeness and evenness, even as the world around us changes. To do this takes equal parts courage and conviction in yourself, and also a sincere willingness to adapt.
Something I’ve noticed about myself (and my students) is that when I come into a balancing pose like Ardha Chandrasana (Half-Moon Pose), my tendency is to inhale sharply and hold my breath as if becoming more statue-like and rigid will allow me to hold the balance. But there is so much learning to be had from freedom of movement, even in this one-legged, one-armed hip-opening challenge. Not only because holding your breath is unsustainable, but also because the gentle sway, gentle contraction and expansion of your body that comes with breathing fully is what true balance really is: a place between stillness and movement, hardness and softness, exertion and comfort.
Yoga offers a myriad of benefits, but arguably the most essential, the most beneficial, is that it confronts your ability to balance – physical, mental, emotional – and stares it down, waiting to see what you’ll do. All balancing postures in yoga, from Tree to Headstand to Crow to Warrior III, demand that you pause and hold and breathe, instead of just flowing into the pose and immediately out of it. These poses require a certain discomfort. Toeing that edge of discomfort is where we start to transform.
(No less important, the CDC reports that the #1 cause of injury in the elderly is from falling from loss of balance. Start practicing balance now and protect thyself later.)
If you’re finding imbalance is taking hold of you in your life, something will suffer: a relationship, your work life, your body, your sanity. We all have different methods for bringing balance back. Try this essential oil blend for a quickie, at-home fix: blend 2 drops Valerian, 4 drops Australian Sandalwood, and 4 drops Laurel Leaf into 4 teaspoons of a carrier oil (like Apricot Kernel), and massage into your shoulders, forearms, and down the shins and calves to the soles of your feet. Valerian is powerful and grounding, and known to ease a troubled mind and restore emotional security.