Welcome to March.
This is a month that symbolises promise and celebration for me. It is a month full of family birthdays (including mine!), gorgeous baby animals and my favourite flowers (even if they did come out early this year). It is also the month of International Women’s Day, held on March 8th. I love this day. It’s a celebration of everything that women have achieved to-date as well as an acknowledgement of the work that still needs to be done. As the mum of three girls, my wish to see our world equal for both men and women is galvanised.
I read this weekend that according to the World Bank, women enjoy an equal legal footing with men in only 6 countries – and Britain is not among them. Independent of these findings, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) conducted research recently that showed a strong correlation between gender equality in the workplace and the potential for growth in the economy. So in order for us all – men and women, young and old – to enjoy greater economic growth, we need to continue to focus on gender equality.
This year the theme for International Women’s Day is #balanceforbetter. I cannot imagine a more appropriate theme! As well as working towards balance – or equality – with men in boardrooms, pay and legal rights, it is my belief that we also need to work hard to counteract today’s hectic, tech-constant, overloaded world by finding balance in our lives. This is VERY hard, and not just for women.
How many of us are good at taking time out? How many of us prioritise just being? How many of us are able to live in the moment?
The daily juggle between career/family/home is as familiar to me as the back of my hand. Even with all the yoga at my disposal, it still requires a wilful determination every day to give myself time to unplug, disconnect, and reset. Sometimes though, just like everyone else, the “stuff” wins and my iphone is recharged more often than me!
“Everything feels impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela
Achieving balance can feel like an elusive impossibility but little by little, with patience and time, it is possible. And we won’t let a little challenge get in our way will we?!
It is with this impetus that classes this month will take on the #balanceforbetter theme.
So how can we work with this theme in a yoga practice?
Last year, I explained how we could use the 2018 International Women’s Day theme of #pressforprogress to apply to yoga and this year is no different!
1. By very definition, Hatha yoga is all about balance.
In Sanskrit, the word ‘Hatha’ can be broken into two syllables ‘Ha-’ which means sun and ‘-tha’ which means moon. The sun and moon are representative of yin/yang, light/dark, energising/calming, spring/autumn, summer/winter etc., and as such, when we practice Hatha yoga (from which all physical yoga is derived), we are working to integrate these opposites so our practice can be perfectly poised between effort and ease. There are so many ways this can be expressed in a yoga class – sun/moon salutations, yin/yang yoga, body/mind connection, lifting/grounding, forward bends/back bends, warming/cooling practices and so on.
2. Balancing – literally.
Standing on one leg can have more benefits than you might initially think. Balancing helps us to focus, clear the mind clutter and improve concentration. Try staying balanced and then think about what you are having for dinner or the spot on your nose! Balancing can also help us reduce stress and inner tension as we work to find our centre of gravity and, with it, our equilibrium. Balances strengthen our muscles and build our coordination, which can prevent the falls that often lead to injuries as we get older.
A lot of the time, and particularly in times of stress or anxiety, we shallow breathe predominantly in the chest. Learning to breathe more deeply using the full capacity of the lungs helps us to calm the mind and feel less overwhelmed. By evening up our breathing so the inhalation and exhalation are the same length (sama vritti) we can literally balance the breath. We can also use pranayama to reach a more peaceful and harmonious state of mind by lengthening the exhalation (2:1 breathing) and practising ujjayi (victorious breath) which uses a constriction at the back of the throat to create an ocean sounding breath, helping us to keep our awareness on the breath. Most of the time, our breath flows more smoothly through one nostril or energy channel (nadi) than the other. Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) is a great pranayam for balancing the hemispheres of the brain and helping to purify or clean the subtle energy channels and promote clarity of mind.
So, if you’re feeling a little off balance this month, Hatha Flow classes will definitely help you #balanceforbetter!
Come and join me on the mat!
Namaste, Tamsin x