Find balance living a yogic lifestyle
“Yoga it the science of life, it is a lifestyle. When you live a yoga lifestyle it allows you to find balance and harmonise and rectify the imbalances and defects of our personality and our nature.” Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati.
When you think about Yoga it’s not unusual to think about the physical practice of yoga. It is true that the physical postures (asanas) have an important function in keeping our bodies strong and healthy. The system of Yoga which Ram and I practice takes a holistic approach. It considers all aspects of ones life to find balance.
There are physical practices to take care of the body, breathing practices (pranayama) to manage our energy body. Awareness is developed through meditation and generally being more mindful provides support for our mental wellbeing.
This system of Yoga also considers how diet, sleep quality and general lifestyle habits impact on the physical body, your energy, and your mind. When you bundle this all together, the physical practices, meditation, diet, and lifestyle habits it enable you to find balance and to live a balanced life, or as we refer to it as living a yogic lifestyle.
The importance of maintaining balance.
Fundamentally, to find and maintain your balance is what helps to support your wellbeing and importantly your immune system.
I know all too well what tips my balance!
Usually, I start to push the boundaries, spending too much time at my computer, going to sleep late, or as my Mum would say ‘burning the candle at both ends.’
If I haven’t slept well, or had enough sleep, it will impact the amount of exercise I do. I tend to get lazy; I won’t put much energy into my sadhana (yoga practice), or I may miss it completely. It’s also very likely any other form of exercise will be forgotten!
This is when I’m also likely to reach for the wrong food, I snack, a lot!
It’s ok to live like this for a day or so, but regularly over a few days, than my balance begins to tip.
I’ve learnt over time that when my balance is not there, I’m more prone to bouts of anxiety, and my good friend ‘stress’ raises its head again. But notably I also compromise my immune system.
How does a balanced lifestyle look?
Everything starts with establishing a routine.
Research shows that establishing a daily routine contributes significantly to our happiness and towards a healthy lifestyle. A routine that also includes time for self-care.
Your self care could be committing yourself to a regular walk in nature, finding a quiet nook to read a book. A long soak in the bath. The important thing is to find what works for you.
My best advice is to take tiny steps, perhaps start with making a small commitment to yourself to take just one aspect and build from there.
Here are five recommendations to bring and find more balance into your life.
Make sleep an important part of your self care.
Sleep. The statistics tell us that we spend approximately 1/3 of our lives asleep, (if we are lucky!). I am no sleep expert, but it is through my own personal sleep struggles that I have come to appreciate the benefits of a good night’s sleep.
When I’ve slept well, I feel better in myself, I am more productive, my mood is lighter, and I have more energy.
Most adults require between 6-9 hours sleep per night. If you are like me and function best when you’ve had 7-8 hours sleep, you need to be heading off to bed no later than 10.30pm if you want to be up and out of bed at 7am.
Regular sleep is essential for a healthy wellbeing. When you sleep your immune system releases small inflammation fighting proteins called cytokines, your sympathetic nervous system rests, that means the stress hormone, cortisol is reduced.
Think about your bedtime routine.
That means, regularly going to bed and getting up at the same time every day even at the weekends. Not always easy I know! It’s very tempting to hit the snooze button, but regularity programs the mind and body to get used to a routine.
When you think about children, you actively encourage them to wind-down for sleep. You read them a story, they may take a bath and have a soothing warm drink before sleep.
Bedtime routines are not just for children! It’s important to establish a bedtime routine to enable you to wind down in the evening and prepare your mind and body for sleep. Set yourself some clear boundaries.
Perhaps no TV or computer work (social media included!) at least an hour before bed. Instead, try reading a book, have a bath or better still meditate!
Regularity of mealtimes
Do you eat or drink immediately before you go to bed? Do you eat your biggest meal in the evenings? Growing up in the UK, the evening meal was the main meal of the day, when everyone is home and eats together.
In the ancient science of Ayurveda (Yoga’s sister science), it says your main meal should be at lunchtime when the sun is at its highest. This is when the abdominal fire, the Agni, our digestive system is strongest.
The evening meal should be light and try to eat it at least two hours before you go to bed. This will give your digestive system plenty of time to rest.
Avoid any stimulants before bed. Which means it’s best to drink your coffee in the morning!
Establish a yoga and meditation practice
The mind and your emotions play a very important role in your wellbeing. Mental stress and anxiety are taking their toll on life, sadly it is the modern disease of our society.
Attending a yoga class once or twice per week may be what you are able to commit to. But these practices will give you the most incredible tools to support your physical and mental wellbeing.
Learning to connect with the breath is one, if not THE most powerful and important practices you can master. By observing your breath, you learn a lot about your current state, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Awareness of your breath is a practice you can refer to at any time. Try the following steps…
- Close your eyes for a moment.
- Bring your attention to the area of the nostrils.
- Observe the breath moving in and out of the nostrils for the next couple of minutes.
- Notice If your breath is shallow and if your breath is fast or slow.
- When you start to observe the breath, it will naturally slow down and you will start to breath more deeply and you will feel calmer.
Meditation and mindfulness practices are proven to be an excellent tool for managing stress, anxiety, and insomnia.
To experience the benefits a meditation practice can bring, it is very important to establish regularity of practice. Without regularity, the accumulation of these benefits can be lost
It’s much more beneficial to meditate five minutes a day than thirty minutes once a week.
Have I mentioned Yoga Nidra?
It is one of the best self-care gifts you can give to yourself. Why?
Through the regular practise of Yoga Nidra you learn how to relax and harmonise your body and mind, creating balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. Inducing physical, emotional, and mental relaxation.
If you would like to learn more about Yoga Nidra, you can discover more by clicking here.
If you would like to try this deep restorative practice of Yoga Nidra you can access by clicking here.
Developing awareness in all aspects of your life.
There is a lot of fear and worry in the world about what will happen tomorrow. Yoga teaches you to live in the present. Through regular practice you develop awareness, you become more aware. Bringing this awareness into your daily life allows you to see life a lot more clearly. When you are aware you are more present.
But you don’t need to be stretching on a yoga mat to be present. You can gradually develop this awareness and presence and you can bring it into all aspects of life particularly when we tune into the different senses….
Here’s a few examples how you can start to find balance and bring awareness into your daily life:
- Next time you are walking in nature…..listen to the sounds around you, be aware of the different colours and textures. Notice what you can smell in the air.
- When you are in the shower, be aware of the touch of water on your body, how does it make you feel?
- Be more attentive to how you eat your food, the different flavours and textures. Do you eat quickly? Perhaps commit to eating one meal a week in silence with no distractions and observe how this impacts how you eat your meal.
When you are present, you are not thinking about the past or future. Being in the present is the only place to be. To quote the great Ram Dass “Wherever you are, be all there.”