I may never master the art of how to live life in balance, but I’m willing to die trying.
While attending an early morning class at Pur Yoga the other day, I had an epiphany. We were sitting on our mats about to engage in a twist when my instructor said:
“Don’t over-extend your spine. Keep your posture neutral and you’ll find you can twist with greater ease.”
She was absolutely right. Not over-extending myself made for a far more satisfying twist. And then it struck me. This advice doesn’t just apply to yoga. It applies to life in general.
Over-extending can easily backfire.
While our gut instinct is often to do more in the hopes of reaping more, the opposite typically happens. Sometimes our efforts backfire in the form of a pulled muscle, sometimes in the form of a stomach ache, and sometimes in the form of a complete and utter meltdown.
I’m not suggesting that we don’t stretch ourselves (both literally and figuratively). I’m all for pushing limitations and putting boundaries to the test. I’m just thinking how much better off we’d be if we tried living without under-extending ourselves or over-extending ourselves. In other words, somewhere in the middle.
Where exactly is the middle?
It’s where you feel you’re doing, giving and being enough but not doing, giving or being too much. It’s where happiness and wellness matter more than righteousness and martyrdom. It’s where your lot in life fulfils you without overwhelming you. I like to think you’ll know you’re there when you feel at peace.
Being at peace with yourself doesn’t mean you’ll never look at someone else’s life and think, “wow, that looks fantastic.” You can be awe-struck by something someone else is doing and still feel genuinely fulfilled. If that’s the case, you’ve probably found your middle.
If that awe turns into longing, though, my guess is you’re not quite fulfilled. You’re still under-extended to some degree. So read more books, pick up painting again, learn to pole dance. Listen to whatever’s calling, respond and own it. But be careful not to let it own you. That’s when obsession kicks in and you risk over-extending yourself.
The goal: live life in balance.
In yoga, this means taking poses as far as you comfortably can, despite what everyone else in the room is doing. Do less than you comfortably can and you won’t have a particularly fulfilling experience. Do more than you can and you’ll defeat the actual purpose of having attended in the first place.
Are you in it for the joy? Or are you in it to prove something to someone — perhaps yourself? If you’re in it for the joy, ask yourself if the way you’re living your life is in alignment with that. Sometimes we make bad choices and despite the stress they cause us, we repeat them day after day, year after year.
‘Tis the season of joy — or is it? Only you can decide.
With December upon us, now is as good a time as any to try to live life in balance. Take a moment to consider where you typically over-extend yourself at this time of year and see if you can drop it down a cog.
Say, for example, you’re hosting Christmas dinner. You could insist on doing it all yourself. Or you could invite your guests to bring the side dishes and demonstrate your culinary prowess with an impeccably roasted bird and heavenly stuffing.
Let’s say you’re a whiz in the kitchen. You decide to prepare the entire meal yourself and do so without breaking a sweat. In fact, you’re sipping rum and eggnogs and singing along to Bing Crosby tunes all jolly day long. After serving the feast you so happily prepared, you join your friends and family at the table in fine festive spirit.
Now let’s say you’re not such a whiz in the kitchen. Or you know how to cook but just don’t enjoy it. You’ve prepared more Christmas dinners than you’ve had hot breakfasts but your family has come to expect them. Remember how last year you fell into bed begrudging them all and swearing never to cook a meal like that again? That’s a sure sign that you over-extended yourself. You went to sleep feeling like a martyr, but where’s the joy in that?
Find your middle. Find your peace. Ask your guests to bring the sides. Live life in balance. That’s where you’ll find your joy.
Live life in balance and twist with greater ease.
No matter what we’re doing, we can always try harder. In that sense, effort isn’t finite. But over-expending (or over-extending) does come with a cost. Spend too much and you’ll end up in the red, and red does not reflect balance.
While many injuries lie beyond our control, I’d venture to say more are self-induced. So protect yourself, on and off the yoga mat. Find your middle. Find your peace.
Viv for today xo
If you enjoyed this read, you may also enjoy another yoga-inspired post; this one on the power of positive affirmations.
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