“add balance”

– a phrase I often hear in my group fitness classes. Our instructor will instruct us to do bicep curls or weighted triceps overhead. About 15 seconds into our weighted work she’ll say “add balance, if you’d like”. In this context she means “lift one leg and focus on breathing” while continuing to do the activity. She doesn’t force us, but rather, reminds us of the opportunity to dig deeper – ultimately impacting our strength and focus. It also calls to mind flexibility if we choose to lift a leg and stumble a little. With this simple phrase we 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” out of class context? How can we add balance in our lives during this hectic holiday season? Or adding balance in our health plan – recognizing that there are extra treats this time of year. Can we balance those, allowing ourselves to enjoy them without neglecting our health goals? How can we balance our end of the year work deadlines and family time?

When we take the balance challenge off of the mat, our courage fades a little. It can be intimidating to say no to a work holiday cocktail party even when our physical health craves a night at home. It’s strong to ask ourselves to be mindful while enjoying holiday dessert.

The “all or nothing” approach – in nutrition, gatherings, and work can often feel like the only way in the 21st century need for instant gratification. We neglect balance out of fear of stumbling or falling and losing track of the things we juggle. In choosing to neglect balance in our lives, we may become ultra focused on one aspect 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. I had an opportunity 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.