Postural Balance: a clean slate for your yoga practice
The ways we carry ourself, sit, stand and move often exist in patterns of imbalance. Because the body is an interconnected whole —inclusive of thoughts and emotions— these patterns ripple out to impact our overall posture.
A good vigorous yoga flow can calm the mind and release pent up agitation. But done mindlessly, it becomes repetitive motion that might exacerbate our imbalances.
From a slower, more restful pace, or holding postures for a longer duration, we give ourselves the chance to reflect on what we might be doing, over and over, that is not a benefit to our wellbeing.
Paying attention off the mat, we may realize these patterns in day-to-day life, too: always leaning to the right when we drive, standing mostly on one foot while washing dishes, playing a sport that is dominant on one side of the body (such as tennis), always carrying your bag on the same arm, etc…
While cases of imbalance exist at the structural level, for instance one leg being longer than another, for the average person, the foundation of the bony skeleton is relatively even.
But look (and feel) with careful attention and it’s apparent most of us are actually pretty crooked.
Take the often practiced Child’s pose, pictured above, and notice if one of your knees bends more easily than the other. Use your fingers to feel the spaces between your ankles and the floor; it’s probably not the same distance under your right leg as it is on the left. Does your weight fall more to one side of your body than another?
For many people this level of nitty gritty detail is really difficult to feel. We might, then, find it easier to reference our alignment as compared to something “true” such as a wall or floor.
You could lie down in shavasana or stand with your back to a wall.
Here are a few key landmarks to focus on, using Corpse pose as a guide:
- do your legs turn out equally, or does one foot or leg roll to the side more than the other?
- are your hips level or is one higher towards your head or towards the ceiling?
- is one side of your low back closer to the floor than the other? is that because your torso is twisted to one side or because one side of your pelvis is tucked more than the other?
- which of your shoulders feels as though it’s rolling up away from the floor or is clenched up towards your head?
- does your head tend to roll to one side every time you lie down?
Whatever we notice in this supine position is most likely happening when we stand, sit and walk, too. When the imbalances are pronounced, it takes great muscular energy to hold ourselves upright.
If, instead, we can return the skeleton to its more natural and balanced state, the myofascial tensegrity does much of the work of keeping us upright and in balance, allowing our muscles to be slightly more relaxed.
There is no perfect alignment. But there is a way to be in your own body that is more balanced, harmonious and a better reflection of the true you.
It took decades for your posture to develop as it has; change won’t happen overnight. So it’s important to be patient and compassionate with yourself right now as you wipe the slate clean of old, unhelpful habits.
Remember that some holding patterns stem from protective guarding against the memory of a painful physical or emotional event, so be gentle. In the background of your thoughts, set in place the thoughts and feelings you want to carry about yourself and build your new posture on that foundation.