This is part 11 in IzzyJi's Yoga off the Mat series.
Yin and Yang. Day and night. Light and dark. Sun and moon. Land and sea. Hot and cold. Energy and calm. Awake and asleep. Fire and Water. Head and feet. Left and right. I could go on and on (and on)!
We learn early on about balance in yoga. I’m not talking about being able to stand on one foot kind of balance. I’m talking about the polar opposite connections that exist in life. The sun rises and sets-- as does the moon. We press our palms together in prayer pose to bring balance to the body. We do warm ups and kriyas that work both sides of the body. We are reminded by doing savasana the importance of resting the body-- not just having it work all the time. There are so many examples we can find on our mats of how we bring balance to the body, just as balance is found all around us. When we are out of balance, we feel it, even if we can’t quite place our finger on what is wrong.
It was evident by the end of my third month of physical therapy that my body was still out of balance. The very first PT I had seen after my surgery had been away for some time. Now that he is back, I have been seeing him for the past few sessions. He was caught up on how I’ve been doing and what I’ve been working on. I still tend to limp without my cane. This PT (I’ll call him “Jay”) told me that the problem is that I’ve worked so hard on just my right side that my left side now needs to catch up. My new assignment: whatever task I am given, whether at therapy or home, I have to do equally on both sides.
It’s funny-- even though both of my knees have always been bad, I’ve always favored the right over the left. So, although the right one was always stronger, it also was always the one that gave me the most trouble. The left, while it usually would never hurt, was my weaker leg. I would always lead going up stairs with my right leg because the left one was too weak to pull my weight up. Now, even while still recovering, my right knee is stronger once again. My left knee has begun to give me trouble, as it tries to help support me. Deep down, I think I was just figuring I would let my right knee take the lead again to make things “easier”.
Jay, however, had other ideas.
“We have to strengthen your left knee-- your entire left side. Knee, leg and hip-- they all need to be just as strong in order for this to be successful. Both sides of the body need to be given equal attention and both need to work together.” He said if I continued the way I was going, I’d probably not only need my left knee operated on sooner than I wanted, but even after, if I kept this habit of letting my right side be the dominant side, I could potentially still keep limping, even need another replacement or revision over time.
This weekend, I thought A LOT about what Jay told me. Balance. Can you imagine a day without night? Can you imagine if when you did your yoga practice, you always only focused on your right side? Your sun side? Your energy side? Your masculine energy side? Your fire side? Could you imagine never working your left side, our feminine energy side, our moon side, which brings us coolness and calming? Or, if we always focused on our body without also giving equal attention to the mind and spirit? Or, if we always focused on just one of the pillars without giving equal attention to the other three? You get the idea. But, let’s go a step further.
“Infection occurs when viruses, bacteria, or other microbes enter your body and begin to multiply. Disease occurs when the cells in your body are damaged as a result of infection and signs and symptoms of an illness appear.” --The National Academy
2020 has been quite a year, filled not only with the disease of the Coronavirus, but also with the dis-ease of uncertainty, racial tensions, political tensions, and job and financial insecurities. It may be difficult to think about balance in our lives when so much focus is drawn to the imbalance in the world right now. This is where Yoga off the Mat really comes into play.
I found this quote by Cybele Tomlinson, author of Simple Yoga: A Simple Wisdom Book.
“Yoga is about clearing away whatever is in us that prevents our living in the most full and whole way. With yoga, we become aware of how and where we are restricted -- in body, mind, and heart -- and how gradually to open and release these blockages. As these blockages are cleared, our energy is freed. We start to feel more harmonious, more at one with ourselves. Our lives begin to flow -- or we begin to flow more in our lives.”
As we approach the end of 2020, let’s reflect on where we can bring more balance, more union, more harmony, more fullness and wholeness to our lives. And, even better-- what part can we play in helping to balance our relationships with others? What part can we play in helping to balance the energy in our homes? Our communities? Perhaps, by beginning with balancing ourselves, we can create a ripple to help to balance the world.