“add balance” – a phrase I often hear in my morning group fitness classes. Our instructor will instruct us to do weighted bicep curls or lift a weight overhead to work our tricep muscles. About 15 seconds into our weighted work she’ll say “add balance, if you’d like”. In this context balance means lift one leg to engage core and focus on breath while continuing to do the weighted activity. She doesn’t force us, but rather, reminds us of the opportunity to dig deeper and work harder – ultimately impacting our strength and focus. Maybe it even reminds us of flexibility and forgiveness if we choose to lift a leg and stumble a little. With this simple phrase the class participants gradually lift one leg to take it to the next level even if momentarily unsteady.
But what about when we take the phrase “add balance, if you’d like” off the mat and out of the class context? How can we add balance in our every day lives during this very hectic holiday season? Or adding balance in our health plan – recognizing that there will be extra treats this time of year. Can we balance those, allowing ourselves to enjoy them mindfully without neglecting our health goals? How can we balance our end of the year work deadlines with trying to get a full night’s sleep?
When we take the balancing challenge off of the mat, our courage fades a little. It can be intimidating to say no to a coworker holiday cocktail party even when we know our physical health is craving a night in a full night’s rest. It’s strong to ask ourselves to be mindful while enjoying holiday dessert at a dinner party. The “all or nothing” approach – in nutrition, parties, and work deadlines can often feel like the only way due to the nature of our societal need for instant gratification. We neglect balance because we fear we may stumble a little or even fall, losing track of the things we were trying to juggle. But in choosing not to add balance in our lives, we may become ultra focused on one aspect of life and miss out on the many benefits that come from engaging in our whole selves. Like engaging core strength during a bicep exercise.
Is there an opportunity in the week ahead where you can add the practice of balance? Maybe it’s opting out of a social event to go to a relaxing yoga class. Or possibly it’s drinking a full glass of water in between each cocktail at happy hour. The opportunity I had during this past week was to do a cookie swap with friends. I’ve written about salad swaps in previous blog posts – an activity that I host to make meal prep a little easier, encourage healthy lunch time habits and have easy access to extra vegetables. This past Sunday the same group of friends wanted to get together and do a cookie swap because “tis the season.” And in an effort of balance (while it did take much more prep and effort to bake and cook) we chose to do the cookie swap and the salad swap rather than the cookie swap instead of the salad swap. As a result of our balance and extra effort work we all brought home a plate of sweets and a whole week’s worth of healthy meals!
So let this serve not to force, but to remind that we all can choose to add balance (on and off the mat), to engage our whole selves, focus on breath, and, ultimately to become stronger and more focused than having a one-track holiday mind.