Not too little, not too much, not too loose nor too tight, not too left or too right - these are all decent strategies for finding balance and equilibrium in many different situations. When we feel we are in balance, whether it is physical, in life, or within ourselves, we are very likely to feel calm, happy, grounded, stable, whole, and complete. Instead of insecurity, fear, anxiety, and self-doubt making us hesitate to move forward in life, we feel confident, motivated, and experiment with creativity - thus when we are in a state of balance we thrive and progress.
We can divide balance into two main categories: Internal and external.
Internal balance can be broken down into four segments, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. External balance is achieved via work, family, social, and fun. We should be looking to achieve coherence between all of these parts, trouble comes when we focus too much on one of them. For instance, when we are too focused on our work, perhaps our family life, social life or ability to relax and have fun becomes compromised. When one is too focused on their physical body, perhaps they, in turn, neglect their spiritual side and start to feel disconnected.
Since how we feel internally will always affect our external world, I think finding internal balance is an important starting point. If we are able to find harmony within, it is much easier to find harmony without. Yoga philosophy teaches us that our bodies are made of different sheaths or layers, and although they are separate, they are also overlapping so in turn one affects the other. For example, the emotional body is said to be very closely entwined with the physical body, hence when we experience and emotion, we feel it as a physical sensation. Thoughts create emotions, and emotions also create thoughts. If that is true, then our mental state will also have a direct effect on our physical state, and vice versa. Although they are separate, they are all part of the whole. Let's examine these 4 'bodies' a little more closely.
The Physical Body:
What is it? The physical body is exactly that. It's the skin, the bones, the blood, and organs. It is the physiological phenomenon that keeps us alive. It is this vessel we get to experience the world through.
When it is neglected: We can neglect the physical body by not nourishing it well enough - not eating highly nutritious foods, or not eating enough. We can neglect the body by not keeping it strong and fit, flexible, and supple. The body needs to be challenged, moved, and stretched often. Not looking after our physical bodies through movement and nutrition will lead us to lose vitality, feel weak, tired, and sick. Long periods of sitting and living a sedentary lifestyle can be very detrimental for our health. We can also neglect the body by abusing it with too many toxins and chemicals whether it is from exposing it to harmful cleaning products, eating pesticide dense food, one too many drinks on the weekend, substance abuse, or putting it through too much stress. Toxicity will lead to disruption in the functioning of the organs, issues with absorption and elimination, and damage to our cells causing rapid aging through oxidization. Lastly, depriving the body of rest is another way in which we can forsake the physical body. Active rest and during sleep is when the body can be more dominant in the parasympathetic nervous system, where it can spend energy on digestion, detoxification, rejuvenation, and healing. This is when the body can repair the damage that happens on a daily basis. When we deny ourselves rest or don't prioritize our sleep, we are blocking the body's natural healing capacity.
When it is excessive: When we are too focused on the physical body, even if it is with the intention to be 'healthy' we can overly deprive ourselves of food ( calories) and certain nutritional components that are crucial for overall wellness. For example, it is now known that certain carbs are essential for proper brain function, are a vital energy source, increase heart health, and help calm the nervous system. It is also now agreed that certain fats are necessary for nutrient absorption, hormone balance, lasting energy and satiation. These are usually the first things to be restricted for the desire of an aesthetically 'healthy' body. Having a very low body fat percentage is also the aspiration of many 'wellness warriors', but when the body fat level is too low, particularly in women, this can be the very opposite of wellness. This can disrupt hormones to the point of stopping ovulation and menstruation in, decrease one's immunity, ability to heal and recover, put a strain on the cardiovascular system and cause an increase of moodiness. Are six-packs really worth it? Too much exercise can put a lot of stress on the body also, physically the joints, muscles, and skeletal system, but also can over tax our nervous system. When someone is extreme in their sport, think of how many injuries that accrue over their career, and also how long their career is able to last. For athletes who are woman, it is very common for them not to menstrate at all, jeapordising their future fertility. Instead of aiding in health, this extreme way of excersise only quickens degeneration.
We can also be excessive in other ways with the physical body. Excessively looking for pleasure, be it with food, sex, or with drugs and alcohol. Overeating and obesity is also another sign of unbalance in our physical body. When we can't control or manage our desires and addictions, our health is very much jeapordised. Anti aging is also another way to be excessively unbalanced. We go to extreme lengths to stay looking youthful, some beauty treatments are harmless and can be a ritual of self care, but some methods are extreme and potentially damaging. We have all seen the images of botox gone wrong, or that person who has had so much ' work' done, they are unrecognisable. Not to mention what they are putting into their bodies, or taking away!
When it is in balance: When there is balance in the physical body all systems are functioning optimally, we feel radiant, vibrant, energetic, confident, clear headed, open, flexible and strong. We have endurance for life and the energy to live it. We are not as vulnerable to dis- ease in the body. When we feel this good in our physical bodies, we will also have more emotional and mental stability.
The key to balance: To look after and maintain the home in which we live, this body. To exercise often, but not to extremes. Balance activity with rest. Rest well, and often. Eat well - not too much and not too little. It truly is about moderation. Avoid extreme diets and eradication of certain foods ( unless advised by a doctor). Don't feel bad about having a glass of wine with your dinner, or that piece of cake someone so lovingly made you. Just don't have the whole bottle or the whole cake! When we allow ourselves to have rather than to feel deprived, we tend to not over indulge and balance is easier to maintain. Know your health is important, but don't confuse vanity for health. Alot of the images we see in health magazines or on Instagram are not healthy or reality. They are (often) the result of disordered eating, extreme diet/ excersing and an illusion created with the right angeling. Also, it takes ALOT of discipline and time to dedicate to such levels of fitness. Unless it is your job and life, you are likely to be cutting into time you could be spending with family, loved ones, friends, or doing something you really enjoy and love. Slight disclaimer, we are all very different, maybe you love spending time in the gym and it is a way you connect with family and friends. I am not intending to write the rule book or dictate anyone lives, just offering a reflection point. The important thing to ask is, am I balanced in all key areas in my life - internal and external.
Next time we explore the Mental Body...
Hope you enjoyed the read. Stay tuned!