Balance. It's a word that comes up A LOT hey? The ever present challenge of finding that elusive work/life balance, consuming a balanced diet (kombucha cancels out copious amounts of chocolate, right?) and more currently, that tricky balancing act of being able to socialise and live 'normal' lives again, met with feelings of being overwhelmed, fatigued and generally 'too busy'.
In my personal experience it's often felt more like barely clinging on to the tight rope than gliding across it with ease. As a self confessed workaholic and someone that also loves to play hard, working as a chef over the last five years meant my self-care (in all its forms) pretty much flew straight out of the kitchen window. Often getting by on a few hours sleep, multiple cups of coffee, and whatever came out of the fryer, things like rest, exercise, nutrition and self kindness took a firm back seat. ** side note: before you see this as an attack on the hospitality industry, I have to make a point that it was probably about 30% the downside of the industry, and 70% my own inability to stop, step back, look after myself.**
The ingrained guilt around resting
Very similarly to my post last fortnight about questioning what might be stopping us from valuing self-care rituals over our usual daily grind, I've spend the last year thinking a lot about why we sometimes find it so hard to take a break, or more specifically, regular breaks. Why is so hard to say no? Why is it only when we reach complete burnout we take a step back?? Why did it take a global pandemic for me to slow the hell down???
Of course I'm speaking personally so there is a whole bunch of my own stories, past experiences, and beliefs going on there, but I also believe there is a wider, more generalised, social conditioning at play, and that is the guilt that is placed around rest. Quiet time. Taking a break. Stepping down. Chilling out. Pressing pause. However you want to phrase it. Our results driven, productivity rewarding, instant gratification culture has demonised, or at least ignored, rest and how important it us in us living sustainably. And I don't mean sustainably in the environmental sense (although it is related). I mean sustainable in its essence, 'to continue and maintain at a certain rate.'
'Powering through' has been prioritised over being honest about our limits. Full schedules have been glorified over spacious ones. Burnout has become more commonplace than balance. General self-care has been masqueraded or painted as self indulgence.
Whilst it has taken all the events of the past year to quite literally force me (at times kicking and screaming) into questioning what my true priorities are, and reevaluating how I live my daily life, yoga has also played a huge part for me, in finding a little balance. I've been practicing for 10 years, but the gift of time this year has allowed me to delve deeper, explore, notice.
All the ways it shows up in both the physical practice, the breath and the nervous system, the philosophy, and the mental health side of it, are constant reminders (or golden nuggets as one of my teachers calls it), on why it's so important. I honestly feel I could theme and sequence a years worth of classes around it...
Let's start with mobility - because on a physical level thats the goal right? To maintain a mobile and pain free physical existence? You could view mobility as sitting right in that centre point between flexibility and stability. We strengthen and stabilise our muscles and joints, so that we can lengthen and flex them in all the wonderful ways they can move. One can't exist without the other (well technically it can, but this is often where injuries and chronic pain show up)
On deeper level we can look at our two sides, our left and right. In Yogic philosophy, it is the Ida and Pingala nadi (or channel), or our feminine and masculine sides, the moon and the sun. In western medicine we can relate to it as our parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) and sympathetic nervous system (SNS). One of the ways we can connect to our PSNS (our 'rest and digest' state, as apposed to 'fight or flight') is through pranayama or breathing exercises.
I feel this is a whole other post in itself, so for now I'll just leave it at that, and say if you would like to explore pranayama you can jump into the Press Pause series, a part of the pre-recorded classes on the platform. If you'd like to delve deeper into the masculine and feminine from a yogic perspective, and spend a full 90 minutes tapping into the feminine (think intuition, flow, cooling calm, creativity, and cyclical nature) drop in for the Full Moon Workshop Tuesday 25th May.
If you have a spare 3 minutes to pause, below are some simple instructions for a calming, left side pranayama technique called Chandra Bhedana...
No cookie cutter approach
Every persons life, schedule, commitments, and expectations are so different. SO different, there is no 'one size fits all' approach for finding balance. It is completely up to you how you go about it... but I do love a good list so here are some potential points you could come to:
The art of saying no. Even if this means taking a moment, or a few hours, before you respond to a request whether that be work related, social or other, pausing before you lock yourself in to what might be too much can help that overfilled diary.
Prioritise rest. Your commitments might mean this also needs to be scheduled in, and may not extend to a luxurious bath or whole day off, but all rest is good rest, even if it's 30 minutes of dedicated time.
Setting boundaries, for yourself and for others. Getting comfortable with communicating your needs isn't easy, but generally speaking, loved ones, employers, acquaintances, may be more accommodating than your own mind leads you to believe.
Practice self kindness. Try not to beat yourself up when it all goes to pot, it happens. Life happens.
Explore pranayama. No equipment needed, just you and a comfortable seat. You can drop into one of two 15 minutes sessions for free here.
Equilibrium: a state in which opposing forces or influences are balanced. Opposing being the operative word here. It ain't easy folks! So be gentle with yourselves.
Again, always here to chat, yoga or no yoga.
Take care, find a little time to rest this week, however that looks for you,