Evolving Balance

To begin, please understand that I am an athlete, and many yoga practitioners may say that athletes and yoga practice can be a pretty interesting mix. This tends to be due to an athlete’s intrinsic idea of competition. In yoga, competition and the athleticism are not highly regarded since they tend to connect directly with the ego.  And the ego, as many of us know, can be detrimental to much of what yoga tries to instill within the mind and body. With that being said, I have practiced yoga for nearly 3 years.  After my first year of practicing, I actually stopped going to a specific class, Ashtanga, because I knew there would be balance poses and I knew at what point during class that I was going to be the most challenged.  Gritting my teeth, sweating, and tensing up were effects I distinctly recall happening  prior to the first extended-hand-to-toe or airplane pose.  For those of you unfamiliar with Ashtanga, it is a series of similar poses that correlate to a long dance sequence. You do the same poses, at the same time, in the same room.  Every. Single. Class.  The athlete in me tried my best to accomplish these balancing poses, but time and time again I felt angry and frustrated that these poses were just not feasible. So, I stopped going to Ashtanga class.  Other forms of yoga are not as scripted, and I decided those were the classes I would attend.  I did not want to dread yoga, as it was becoming more of my daily routine, and one thing I truly looked forward to each day.  I didn’t like the fact that this was not working for me, and I could usually control my body in an athletic sense.  All this changed when my dad purchased a used Paddle Board for his own enjoyment in Harrison, Michigan.  We soon learned that SUPING (Stand up paddle boarding) isn’t the only thing you can do on a Paddle Board. I began doing yoga on the board as a fun way to practice balance. It made me look forward to trying poses that I struggled with in class so many times. I’ve also been called a ‘water baby’ for as long as I remember, and this rang instinctually true as well.  If we consider the fact that we are in water for 10 months to begin life, it makes complete sense that water can be a source of comfort and our ultimate connection.  My practice on the Paddle Board made yoga new again, but it also spoke volumes to what I was really struggling with at this point in my life: balance.  As a working mother (2 jobs if you count being an author) and loving wife, I was constantly struggling to balance work, play, and family.  With my practice on the water ultimately testing my balance, I realized that actually getting down on the floor and playing with my kids, or reading them that second Mo Willems’ book before bed is significantly more important than finishing the stack of papers I brought home from work, or matching up the three bins of single socks.  Although I realized this, I still struggle.  When I became an author, that added another facet to my already busy life.  Often I wonder why I keep making plans and maintaining such a go-go-go mentality when I feel absolutely content in the middle of Townline Lake on a Paddle Board, even without a paddle!  That stillness, that connection with nature, and that peace of mind, is the epitome of yoga. This is what balances me.  When I get overwhelmed with that to-do list in my head, and I’m writing a lesson plan with one child in time-out and the other tugging on my leg, I remind myself to breathe.  I contemplate the feel of the water beneath my feet, and the constant rippling sound the current brings.  It’s all about balance. My instructor’s words during Ashtanga class also remind me today  that every day our own balance is different and unique.  It can be a simple task one day, and our most challenging pose the next. This may be due to our inner ear controlling our balance, sinuses that are congested, breathing that may be blocked, or even the stress load that we carry in our shoulders. There are many reasons why balance differs, but this phrase not only helped my ego ‘deal’ with the fact that I couldn’t conquer these poses each time, now it relates to the everyday challenges that life brings.  Some days seem as peaceful as a vacation in Maui, while others can be the worst of all bad-hair days combined.  Breath and patience can balance the challenging days and provide us with comfort that tomorrow can be better,  or that we will make it through a day that may be even more difficult.  This balancing act will challenge me as life goes on, but the incorporation of yoga, especially on the Paddle Board, will continue to be an outlet for my own evolution.  Without yoga and that used Paddle Board, it may have taken me longer to appreciate what Ashtanga class was teaching me: patience, acceptance, and most of all, true balance.

Please see http://vimeo.com/27702053 to see the beautiful work of Tanner Shay, and listen to the talented Kate Nash.

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2 Responses to Evolving Balance

  1. Diane Roberts says:

    Carrie, I watched your video, that is amazing, YOU ARE AMAZING!!

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