Our approach to balance
Still the mind, move the body.
Our bodies can be stagnant and fixed in sub-optimal positions. Take the sternocleidomastoid muscle (SCM) – you find it by turning your head to one side and feeling for that large muscle that pops out the side of the neck connecting from your collar bone to around the back of the jaw. The SCM is shortened when we push out our chin to look closer at our computer screens – it also contracts when we hang our head over our smart phones. So it does a lot of work in our modern bodies.
One method of releasing this muscle on your left side is to drop your right ear to your right shoulder and hang out – even a few breaths does wonders.
An interesting feature of the SCM though is that it also contracts during the startle response – which can be activated when emotionally aroused. So if our approach to releasing isn’t encased within a framework that addresses emotional arousal, the effects can be limited.
This is where the emotional balance work comes in. Here we can consider three factors which can be tuned for balance:
- Intention: where we balance striving towards a specific goal with a wide picture that stretches beyond the immediacy of the moment. Of course we want to nail that arm balance but what for? Balanced intention protects us from obsessing on the one hand and being too vague on the other.
- Sustained focus: where we train to balance the mind to develop a laser like focus that is stable and calm. We use techniques such as mindfulness meditation to do so.
- Emotional intelligence: to study the process of emotions so that we recognise when when we might be getting swept away – because we know the narrative and the physiology we are then positioned to ride the wave or change course.
So these can be useful before moving into a pose or engaging in any sort of movement. Check in with your focus, intention and your emotional state.
So we try to mix these into each class. Sometimes it is explicitly training emotional balance in isolation (like in meditation) and sometimes there is movement thrown in – but the aim is balance across these domains.