There’s no denying it, life is stressful. From the second you get out of bed in the morning to the second you fall back into bed at night, stress is inevitable. Some days the stressors are great and seem to consume our whole day. On other days, the stressors seem small, but they make us feel like we are climbing a mountain just to get through our day. Yoga is great for your daily life, whether you want to relieve stress or maintain a calm, clear state. However, there are times when you need a little more inner peace on your mat! We’ve found eight easy ways to help you create and deepen a sense of balance and calm for the days when you need a little more rest.
What is balance and calm?
Balance and calm are often two buzzwords that appear in yoga, but what do they mean and why are they important? It is easy to interpret these terms as referring only to relaxation, but in fact, these are the goals of all yoga. Balance or samatvam is a state of equilibrium in which a person is not overly active or overly passive and is able to calmly focus on a task. Rest is defined as the state of peace. Both balance and calm are required to maintain a healthy mind and body and to lead a full, happy life. A general yoga practice is a great way to cultivate the mental qualities of balance, equanimity, and calm as it balances the body, mind, and spirit. Yoga also contains special techniques to guide both our body and mind into a deeper state of harmony, inner peace, and oneness with the world around us.
Yoga tips for balance and calm
The translation of Hatha Yoga implies balance. “Ha” refers to the sun, “tha” to the moon and yoga means “yoke” or “to participate”. When we create equality between the inner opposites (sun / moon, hot / cold, hard / soft), we experience balance. While this state of balance and calm is inherent in yoga, we can also take steps to further promote and cultivate these qualities in our practice. On days when you need more rest, add one or more of the following exercises to your normal routine.
Alternate nostril chatting is one of the most effective ways to get centered. Try after an argument, before a presentation, or whenever you are feeling anxious. By quenching and balancing the sun (pingala) and moon energy paths (ida), this pranayama practice creates feelings of harmony and peace. Try to begin or end your asana practice with this calming breath in 1-3 minutes.
One of the fastest ways to gather scattered energies is to repeat a mantra. Mantras can be practiced silently or loudly with or without a mala, although those who use a mala find that over time it becomes charged on purpose and gives a sense of well-being once the pearls are touched. The mantra So-hum (“I am that”) is simple and powerful as it promotes an inner awareness of being in the present. After several breathing cycles, the mantra can become hamsa, known as white swan meditation. You can chant mantras at the beginning of your practice to calm and center the mind. You can also incorporate mantras to help you stay present and focused while holding yoga poses.
The most popular mudras use hands and fingers to close pranic pathways so that energy can circulate through the body. Anjali Mudra, the gesture of prayer, balances out with equal pressure on the right and left palms. For Bhairava Mudra, place your hands on your lap, right over left, palms up. Although this mudra is named for the violent aspect of Shiva, it is so simple and natural that it is ideal for meditation or pranayama … or for discreet energetic attunement, perhaps while sitting on an airplane or at a conference table. In the female version, Bhairavi, the left hand is on top. As your consciousness becomes refined, you will notice the difference in tone between the two variations.
Trying to try Vrksasana (Tree Pose) or Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III) teaches us very quickly that it is practically impossible to balance outwardly without balancing inward first. Drishti’s one-sided focus stops the mind. When the mind is still, the breath becomes calm and then the body becomes the teacher. In this way we practice the niyama of Svadhyaya in asana. Svadhyaya is usually translated as self-study, or studying the scriptures, and particularly the balance poses, can help us understand one of the seemingly contradicting themes of yoga, inaction in action (Bhagavad Gita 4:18). The next time you find yourself out of whack, experiment with one of these methods. As with Goldilocks, you will find that there is a middle ground between “too hard” and “too soft” that is spot on.
Some of the most soothing yoga poses for stress relief are the simplest, but they can add a powerful calming boost to a sequence. You can find peace and tranquility by practicing soothing forward flexion poses such as childrens pose, legs apart, forward flexion pose, and forward fold pose. Hip extensions and heart opening poses are also helpful in promoting peace and tranquility. Practice more of these types of poses and notice which create the most calm ones in your practice.
Yoga Nidra is a Sanskrit term that roughly means “yogic sleep,” but not the same as the sleep we go through at night. It is essentially a guided meditation designed to enable “conscious awareness of the inner space of your being”, similar to the Shavasana pose. It is a deep state of relaxation similar to hypnosis that can be added at the end of an asana practice or used independently to promote calm.
Playing soothing yoga music while exercising is an easy way to get into the zone and return to a place of balance and calm. You can find yoga music specifically designed for practicing yoga to help you achieve higher states of calm and concentration. It is also okay to play any type of music that will help you achieve a state of peace and calm.
Practicing in a calm and peaceful environment increases your equanimity and also supports all of the above techniques. Pay attention to the decor and surroundings when practicing in a yoga studio. If you are practicing at home, take the time to set up a calming and calm yoga room. Choose a sunny and quiet room or corner in your house and fill it with plants, yoga props, cozy pillows and blankets.
What are some of your best practices for regaining your center and finding balance?