This is where the real yoga starts- when the scales of life are not always tipped in our favours.
So how do we really keep coming back to “find inner peace”, “honour our body” or “be present” in our lives off of our yoga mats? Contrary to what people might think, creating balance doesn’t require more hours in our days or drastic lifestyle choices.
1. Let go of what doesn’t serve you:
-Literally! Try decluttering your space:
In yoga, we practice the Niyama of Sacha, purity or cleanliness, which includes the external as well as internal- both in the body and the mind. Be realistic in what possessions you need and donate the rest.
I didn’t do this until I was forced to, when I moved in and out of living spaces while traveling. I noticed how cathartic it was and the joys of having less stuff to maintain. I have a bigger appreciation for the things that I can keep long-term because they hold value to me and have become timeless pieces. I’ve realised that downsizing is more a shift in attitude that affords you the resources to live your passion.
-Set healthy boundaries in your relationships:
Connect with yourself by spending time alone to sit with your emotions. This will help you to practice the Yama of Aparigraha, letting go of your attachment to ideas or people so that you can stay grounded with your truths.
2. Listen to your heart:
-Respond with compassion and grace:
Whatever you set out to do, whether they are goals of eating healthy or finding a new job, be easy on yourself. Whatever happens, whether you’re told what to think or do at work, be kind to others.
Tune in to the foundation of who you are and be graceful with what you’ve endured in life. Your heart is a source of love and life but hardships can also create walls of defense.
-You know best:
No matter what advice you’re given by loved ones, following your heart is key to finding balance. Staying focused on what your heart is telling you allows you to steer away from derailing distractions.
3. Be in the present moment:
-Make time for meditation:
Sit in nature or in silence for anywhere from a couple minutes to half an hour. Give your mind a chance to catch up to your body through deep cycles of breath. This will allow you to settle into your space and your sense of self so that you can find more awareness in your daily life.
You can also try practicing meditation by consciously focusing on small tasks, such as the act of inserting your car key into the ignition or washing dishes. This one was life-changing for me, as I used to forget my keys, wallet and/or phone in places all the time!
-Try not to anticipate or dwell:
Write in a journal. Tap in to the present moment by asking yourself: ‘How do I feel about my day at work? What or who caused this feeling?” Then, move forward with the rest of your day. If you find yourself talking about events of the past, as life-changing as they were, you are not in the present moment. Define the here and now by exploring who you are currently and how you feel.
4. Enjoy the journey:
-You ARE where you are meant to be:
Reflect on the moments you felt the most proud, happy or excited. Now, think of the times that led up to those moments. Everything comes around in full form. Being okay with it, negative or positive, is another way of practicing Aparigraha (non-attachment). Trust and be patient with who you are and what you know now.
-Keep learning about something, if anything:
Sign up for a class or take up a chance to learn about a new skill. Every step that leads to the next is meant to be a lesson learned.
5. Find your center:
-Make a list of goals and another list of things that make you happy:
Focusing inward brings clarity to what you want out of your life. This gives you a chance to explore who you are and what makes you joyful. Finding your center allows you to ground down and have a sense of stability in your life.
Set a good tone for the rest of your day by making time to step outside for anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes.
-Be open to other options:
Say yes to things that you’ve always wanted to do. Control is fear dressed in different form. When you give up your own notions of what should be, you find a little bit more harmony in your life. Small shifts in attitude lead to big changes, usually positive ones.
We are constantly in a state of flux. You learn the most about yourself in states of transitions.
7. You are enough:
-Face your fear:
Maybe you are scared to confront someone about an issue, or you are doubtful of your competence. Acknowledge your worth and strength. Act accordingly; speak up, stand up for your beliefs, or take a chance. It is daunting to leap into the unknown so many of us steer away from it. Know that is fear talking. If you fail, then there will always be another way to your will.
-Keep it simple:
For big change, start small. Set out small, achievable goals. Find clarity in what you want and need. Just as we avoid tolerating pain in our yoga practice, be effortless in all that you do.
8. Find gratitude:
-Make a list of things you’re thankful for:
Find sufficiency in what you have by thinking of the things you are grateful for. Write in a gratitude journal and make it a habit.
-Do not compare yourself to others:
Whether they are personal feats or failures, comparing doesn’t get us anywhere. It is a vicious cycle that only ends in self-sabotagement. Only the ego wins, giving you a false sense of victory and leaving you feeling lonely. Can you practice feeling truly joyful and grateful for others’?
9. Set your intention:
-Revisit your goals:
Write down what you want to accomplish today, this week or this year. The simple act of making this list of intentions reinforces them. Besides, it doesn’t have to be New Years or your birthday for you to write down a list of things you want to do.
-Create a vision board:
If you are a visual person, the act of putting together images and texts can help you to realign your life with your vision. Cut up magazines or print inspirational quotes from Pinterest that inspire you. Seeing it will help you to materialise your intentions.
10. Choose joy:
-Laugh a lot and be happy:
Happiness is a state of mind. This doesn’t mean you should deny yourself of your emotions. If you are sad, then be sad. Cry once in awhile! But practice shifting your perspective to a happy one. This can help you build awareness, change old habits and most importantly, find your happy place!
“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” ~Thomas Merton
On a final note, of course all these tips simply serve as good reminders. Take what you will from them, and realize that trying to tackle all is another lesson in balance and patience. Just remember it takes time to create a beautiful, balanced YOU.
By: Sunny Koh
Sunny has been a long time yoga student and teacher. Her classes aim to create a nurturing environment for her students to support inward focus and exploration. After spending a couple years abroad in Korea, Thailand, Costa Rica and Bali, she moved to the Bay area and is currently learning about ayurvedic nutrition. She shares her passion for yoga through teaching, writing and photography. She also enjoys climbing, hiking and exploring the coast. Find out more about Sunny through her website: www.sunnykyoga.com
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