5 Yogic Practices that will bring you Back to Balance
To be in balance means to feel grounded and peaceful, yet at the same time full of life. It means feeling a sense of harmony on all levels—physical, mental and energetic. According to yoga, when we are truly relaxed and in a balanced state, we can access the innate wisdom and strength that are guiding us towards our true potential.
In my previous post, How to Bring Yourself Back to Balance, I described ways to find more balance in your daily life. In this post, I will offer tools and practices to balance you on the yoga mat. You can practice them every day or whenever you feel like you are out of your natural, relaxed state.
Traditional hatha yoga aims to shape and transform energy in a beneficial way, allowing you to skillfully manage this life force energy. One of the ways you can do this is to bring yourself back to balance.
There is a concept in yoga called vayu (Sanskrit for wind). Vayus have different directions of energy, functions, and locations. Samana vayu is the balancing force located in the abdomen. Its function is to bring us back to balance and stability, and to improve mental and physical assimilation. In addition, it brings us a sense of calm beyond the balancing of the opposites.
The following poses and practices can help reestablish your connection to the energetic center of the abdomen and strengthen the samana vayu. Consider including them in your yoga practice to bring yourself back to balance.
When done correctly, yoga poses affect us not only physically but also mentally and energetically. Twists are very special because they can balance all physiological constitutions, soothe the nervous system, and help us to assimilate on a physiological as well as on a mental level.
There are many different twisting poses, that can be divided into three main categories:
- Standing twists: for example, revolved lunge and revolved triangle
- Laying twists: for example, supine twist and variations
- Sitting twists: for example, ardha matseyandrasana, bharadvarasana B, marchiasana C
In your hatha yoga sequence, start with a standing twist, then move to a laying twist. The most powerful time for a seated twist is towards the end of your sequence, after the backbend. Try to hold each twist for at least one minute—remember, it takes time to go deeply into the pose! Hold each side, breathing calmly and evenly into the abdomen. As you inhale, imagine the breath going from the base of the spine to the crown. As you exhale, imagine it traveling down. Close your eyes and focus inwards. This will maximize the effect.
Personally, ardha matseayandrasa is one of my favorite poses and I do it every day! It is deeply internalizing and calming, yet revitalizing at the same time. It brings me back to my center.
2. Belly-down backbend
Backbends are another powerful pose for getting back to balance—but not just any backbend. In general, backbends are activating. But when we lay down with the abdomen against the floor, the backbend also has a grounding effect. It massages the internal organs and it balances the breath, which is very soothing and balancing for the nervous system.
Belly-down backbends include shalabasana (locust pose) and dhanurasana (bow pose). Holding these poses is more challenging than holding a twist. Try them first for 30 seconds, keeping the breath calm and deep. Gradually, with practice, you will be able to increase it to one minute or longer.
3. Fists in the belly
This self-belly massage improves digestion and stimulates elimination. It is best to do on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning. It is a gentler variation of the peacock pose, where the whole weight is on the wrists.
For this technique, sit on your heels (consider having a soft blanket under your knees). Make fists with both hands and put them on your lower belly. Inhale, and lengthen the spine. Next, exhale and fold over your legs, placing your forehead on the mat. You will feel your fists compressing the internal organs. Move your fists for a moment, eventually feeling an uncomfortable spot in your abdomen. Try to stay there for a moment and breathe into it.
Attention: Be very gentle with this exercise when on your period.
4. Complete yogic breath
Breath has the power to balance the nervous system, which in turn will balance you at both the mental and physiological level. Most of us don’t breathe deeply and consciously. Breathing happens involuntarily (luckily!), but that also means we forget how to breathe properly. As a result, the breath becomes shallow and fast. By becoming more aware of the breath, slowing it down, and deepening it, we are healing, grounding, and balancing the whole system. The complete yogic breath is the most basic, but I also believe it is the most powerful—if we can master it.
Complete breath simply means breathing deeply and evenly into all sections of the lungs, using the diaphragm muscle. The breath goes from the bottom to the top. As you breathe in, fill the abdomen, chest and side ribs, and the upper chest. Then, exhale and empty the abdomen, chest, then the upper chest.
It may take a while to get used to this way of breathing, especially if you are not used to breathing deeply and consciously. But very soon, you will notice dropping into a deeper state of presence and awareness.
Do this pranayama (breath work) for a few minutes every day (you can set a timer at the beginning), before meditation or as a practice in itself. Then notice the profound changes in your life.
5. Nadi shodana
Alternate nostril breathing is a powerful breathing technique that balances the nervous system and the left and right hemispheres of the brain. As a result, it refines awareness and prepares the mind for meditation. This pranayama uses a specific hand mudra (gesture).
Place the ring finger of your right hand on the left side of the nose and your thumb on the right side. Press your thumb to close the right nostril and breath in through the left. Next, use the ring finger to close your left nostril and breathe out through the right. In through the right, out through the left. This cycle of left-to-right, right-to-left is one round. Breathe smoothly and evenly through each nostril. To feel the full effect, complete at least six rounds.
It is impossible to always be balanced, because life will throw you out of balance from time to time. It is about having the awareness to know when to reach for the tools that will bring you back to your natural state, a place where you can access your full potential and thrive.
To me, this is a moment-by-moment, day-by-day practice of refining my awareness and checking in with myself. I am very grateful for these tools that bring me back to my center.