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Finding Balance

In hatha yoga, we purposefully combine opposite energies to find balance in our center. Many of the techniques we use in yoga are meant to counter balance the repetitive movements we use in our daily lives that drift us away from health. For instance, many of us sit with our arms forward for long periods of the day, checking our phones, working on the computer or driving. In this position, the hips are chronically flexed and the chest tends to narrow. Practicing back bends invites an opposing action by stretching the hip flexors and opening the chest.

Our society tends to move at a fast pace. We like to achieve and progress. Energetically this means we are well connected to our right main energy channel, the pingala, which is associated with heat, analytical thnking and the flight or fight response. These is beneficial in balanced doses but too much of this type of energy is the root cause of stress in our society, leading to all manners of dis-ease.

Like is attracted to like, and the more we are out of balance, the more we are drawn to things that move us even more out of balance. Practicing yoga helps us learn our tendencies so we can make better choices about our health. This often means we need to do the opposite of what comes naturally for us.

Look at the descriptions of the Ida and Pingala below and determine which type of energy you are more connected to in your practice and in your daily life. For the next few weeks, invite the other type of energy into your life. If you are super busy all the time, take a few restorative yoga classes or add a 5 minute meditation practice to your day. If you are the nurturing type, add a dynamic yoga class to your week by scheduling it on your calendar, making a commitment to yourself and attending. It may take a while to get used to doing things you are not naturally drawn to, but with time and reflection you may notice you feel less overwhelmed or have more energy. You may feel more contentment and satisfaction with your life.

Ida - Left channel
  • Lunar, cooling, quieting, feminine, yin
  • Affects our right brain - creativity, expression, intuition, feeling
  • Related to the parasympathetic nervous system.
  • Can be accessed by breathing through the left nostril, practicing restorative yoga, cooling postures such as shoulder stand, supported back bends and forward bends; listening to music; and creative endeavors such as painting and cooking.

Pingala - Right channel
  • Solar, heating, active, masculine, yang
  • Affects our left brain - reason, discipline, navigation, logic
  • Related to the sympathetic nervous system
  • Can be accessed by breathing through the right nostril, practicing dynamic yoga, heating postures such as sun salutations, standing poses, and the big back bends like urdhva dhanurasana (wheel); working on brain teasers or word puzzles; making a plan for something you want to do.

Activities that access both Ida and Pingala at the same time
  • Nadi shodhana pranayama
  • Yoga postures that cross the midline of the body such as twists
  • Walking with your arms swinging in opposition - as the left leg steps forward the left arm should swing backward.

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