Stress is a natural reaction to certain situations - it is part of life. Stress however becomes a problem when it becomes chronic and we find ourselves out of balance. We become trapped inside patterns of stress.
The term stress originates from the Latin “stringere” - which simply means to pull tight. We may all experience this pulling tight in one or more of several ways: in our heads when we experience a constant whirring of repetitive thoughts or continual distraction. In our hearts when we easily get upset or captivated by negative emotions. And physically in the form of tightness in the muscles of our upper back, neck and shoulders or in our belly.
To counter pulling tight we create space. And the practices of Yoga are all about creating space, about opening up. When we are practicing yoga we grow connection inside, we move into a greater sense of wholeness, a deeper sense of balance. One of the most fundamental and powerful practices in yoga is how we approach our doing, thinking and feeling. That is, how we “use” our belly, head and hearts:
Our Belly: We redirect the focus of our actions - our doing - away from the outcome to the process. We take the attitude of the journey is the reward.
Our Heads: We redirect the focus of our minds away from knowing and problems and towards to curiosity and discrimination. We observe and deepen our seeing things as they are.
Our Hearts: Seeing things as they are, and enjoying the process, opens our hearts. We grow our compassion for ourselves and the world around us
Although simple these practices are not always easy. This is because we are deeply entangled in all sorts of patterns - the same patterns that drive our experience of stress.
As we grow and deepen our relationship with the practices of yoga for belly, head and heart we are creating space and loosening ourselves - moving away - from the patterns that no longer work for us. And we are also creating the space to engage with patterns that work for us. Patterns that are healthy in the deepest sense of the word - they move us towards wholeness. Both this moving towards and this moving away support us in diminishing our sense of stress and growing our sense of balance.
© David Dodd, June 2014
This is an edited version of an article first published on www.EkhartYoga.com. To download (or watch online for subscribers) the video that explores this in a lot more detail please go to: www.ekhartyoga.com/video/exploring-balance