Musing on balance

Finding balance. I’m starting to dislike this concept. I practice yoga on a semi regular basis, meaning some weeks I get to accomplish practice more than once a week, other weeks I’m not so lucky so I hear or see this statement a lot at yoga class or in my readings. Finding balance, creating balance in your life, etc. Balance, balance, balance.

Lately the pursuit of balance has been a lot like the pursuit of happiness. You think you have a sense of balance then one tiny thing throws it off and your struggle to find balance resumes.

Balance seems to be accompany a calmness in your life. I feel calm, pretty much all the time and even when I’m not perfectly clam I’m still pretty relaxed, but I’m certainly not balanced. Take yesterday for example I thought I had it all worked out drop kids off at daycare and school, babysit my niece, prep stuff for dinner, trade cars with my husband, meet my oldest at the pool for swim lessons then go to work. Except I messed up the daycare schedule, oops. Oldest was a little late for swim lessons, didn’t have time to switch cars with hubby and ended up taking yogurt and an apple to work for dinner. It didn’t exactly feel balanced but I did feel calm.

I fantasize about routine thinking maybe this will bring balance. Routine is something I’ve tried to strive for, it’s good for the kids too right? I’m coming to realize it may just be out of my grasp and frankly I think we do just as good without routine as we do with it, which is to say we take it day to day and it seems to work, most of the time. What I don’t like is my “me time” gets pushed aside frequently when we don’t have routine. It’s a mommy thing. I think we all have it to some degree. It’s making the kids lunches before mine and eating yogurt for dinner instead because I ran out of time to pack my dinner.

But being in balance means making sure I’m taking care of myself too so I need that “me” time. Like when the oxygen masks drop down in the plane they always tell you to put your mask on first then help others. It’s kinda a metaphor for life isn’t it? You aren’t effective if you’re incapacitated. I’ve got to learn to put the oxygen mask on first. Why is this so hard?

Probably because when the oxygen mask drops down its right in front of your face to grab, hold onto and just breathe. Yoga class is my oxygen but it’s not in my face when I need it.

So how am I ever going to achieve balance? I’m not. I’m going to strive for awareness instead, noticing when I am so out of whack, so unbalance, I’m not being effective anymore. Balance is too momentary, fleeting, but it feels so good. I guess I’m torn, I’m not going to give up on balance. I just want to take away the expectation it will stay for awhile and instead accept and enjoy it, temporarily.

When I’m feeling a little burnt out and all out of whack I’m going to just put my feet on the ground where ever I am be in the moment, practice my yoga. So, please don’t knock me over if you see me on the sidewalk standing in tree pose I’m trying to create my balance.

A whale of a way to start the day

After our trip to visit family in Chile I made a committment to myself for this trip; I was going to find time for myself everyday to relax, just for me if only for an hour I was going to do it. So, I searched the internet for some yoga classes close to where we would be staying because I knew if I was left to my own devices my committment could easily be derailed. I tried two different studios in Kihei, Maui Yoga Path and Kihei Community Yoga Centre.

I enjoyed all my yoga classes immensely, but Maui Yoga Path worked for me the best it was early in the morning and just a short walk away.

Heading down to my third class of the week I was full of doubts and feeling like each step was just taking a little bit more energy than usual. When I arrived I unrolled my mat onto the short green grass and plopped my butt down while crossing my legs to stare out into the ocean waiting for the class to begin. I wasn’t there a moment when a grey whale breached directly in front of me. My eyes opened wide and my breath just stopped. I quickly looked around and spotted a couple only a few feet to my right when our eyes connected through beaming huge smiles we squeaked out; “did you just SEE that?” simultaneously. It was so unreal we had to check in with each other to confirm it actually happened.

To my further amazement the whale stayed throughout my private lesson, no one else showed up to class, slapping the water with its fin and tail. At one point in her soft yogic voice my instructor asked me to raise my right hand up to the sky and my whale, certainly we were buddies now, raised her fin and just held it there, in a simple salute.

Facing out towards the ocean moving through the class watching my whale moving through her own morning routine filled my soul right up. That coupled with chest openers throughout the session on my short jaunt back to the condo, to my family, I felt like my heart was leading the way. I felt lighter, taller, straighter and stronger all at once, in that moment my life felt blissfully perfect.

My silent exchange with this majestic animal was an acknowledgement of sorts, we were both taking our time. Her a straggler at the end of the migration season, me a wife and mother separated from my pack for a morning, moving through the world, taking in the sunrise, stretching out for the day ahead. Preparing to take on the rest of the journey whether it be a day at the beach with family or an epic journey across oceans we knew our tanks need refilling on this morning.

 

 

Recharge your batteries with a 24hr staycation

A well planned 24 hour escape is sometimes all you need to to recharge your batteries.

When we travel it’s most often with the kids in tow and this can sometimes leave you needing a vacation from your vacation. I’ve been feeling like this since we stepped off the plane from Chile a few weeks ago and we’re about to embark on another family adventure soon. In the mean time taking care of this family, working and preparing for the next adventure had me feeling a little less than perky these past few days. Then my husband came home form work one day and I could just tell he was feeling the same, we needed a break.

On Tuesday I decided to book us a room in Victoria, 3.5hr drive away, arranged the grandparents to have our kids for a sleepover and informed my husband about our plans for Thursday night. But I knew it wasn’t just about being somewhere else we needed to relax, not just sleep in.

By the time we left Thursday after work I had the workings of a 24hr relaxation plan. We drove to Nanaimo and picked up dinner along the way. Speeding along the highway we talked about our week not even with the music on in the background just talked and got everything out. When we arrived our room had been upgraded to a harbour view and it would have been nice to just relax and let the exhaustion of the week take over but we bundled up and headed for a brisk walk around the inner harbour in the crisp night air. Victoria is brilliantly light up at night with perfectly spaced lighting around the Legislative buildings and reflections of the street lamps off the water it never feels really dark.

A post walk drink at our hotel bar sitting by the huge window over looking the boat slips below was the perfect night cap to the first few hours of our 24hr staycation.

Before we went to bed we decided on ordering room service breakfast which is really out of the norm for us. I LOVE brunch, but the goal was to relax and I didn’t want us to hurry off in the morning to beat the morning brunch crowd. The best part is it seems hotels have come around and the room service menu was in line with what you would pay at any restaurant these days. The food was good, not spectacular but honestly having it delivered hot to your room exactly when you want while you are still in your jammies was perfect.

Part of the plan I had concocted was going to a gentle yoga class at a studio nearby. We went to Hemma yoga studio and moved through a 75 minute class with an emphasis on guided mediation at the end. We left virtually silent, practically melting into our car seats. We really didn’t talk much on the drive home, we didn’t need to, but when we arrived to pick up the kids all felt right in the world again.

I never regret taking time for just the two of us our journey together is just as important as our journey as a family there’s no destination worth arriving at to simply let our foundation fall to pieces.

How yoga saved my last family trip

I have always been on again off again with my yoga practice but over the last year and a half it’s become an, at minimum, bi-weekly meeting of my toes and mat. It’s felt great and I’ve actually felt my body progress in poses I never thought possible.

On our most recent trip to Chile I contemplated stuffing a mat into the luggage but in the end it didn’t make the cut.

Travelling to Chile means visiting my in-laws. Ummm, delicately put things do not always lean towards butterflies and rainbows instead rather heavily towards awkward silences and biting my tongue. This trip was no exception.

But if you have ever gone to just one yoga class your entire life or maybe never attended one you probably still know the first rule of yoga is: breathe. In through the nose out through the mouth it is simplicity at it’s finest. For me one big yogic breath and I’m a cool, calm and collected every, single, time.

Just the breathing exercises alone was a huge support to my mental stability through the trip but what really helped me get through was actually hitting the mat. As is usually the case after long flights, and inconsistent sleeping arrangements (pull out couches, hard mattresses, soft mattresses, etc) my back was starting to scream. So I arranged time with my husband to have an hour to myself, borrowed a mat and went through a class in my mind. There was children crying and yelling in the background (not mine), adults speaking loudly and more than I would have liked, interruptions, but by the end I was left alone for just enough time to focus on my practice.

I felt lighter, longer, straighter, centred and most importantly I felt like me again. All the stress from travelling with the kids, dealing with our family in the context of the extended family and trying to make it a positive experience for our kids simply melted away momentarily. On top of that I felt like I was “doing” yoga myself, not just being led but taking control of my practice for the first time ever. It probably wasn’t the perfect flow sequencing but it was certainly empowering getting the results I was looking for from my own knowledge. Hmmmm maybe I’m ready to really take the plunge into ramping up my own home practice?

The second chance I got onto the mat was at a surf lodge we stayed at in Pichilemu. They offered a free evening class 6 days a week and I eagerly jumped at the chance to take part. It was the first time I’ve taken a class not knowing the language but yoga lends itself to invitation no matter what language you speak. I may not have taken home all the “lessons” the teacher was speaking about but following along and getting the basics was easy and felt just right.

Inhalamo, exhalamo, smile.

At this point in the trip, nearing the end, I just needed a bit of “me time” as may or may not be the case for you sometimes travelling to visit family is not exactly relaxing but after this class I practically bounced back to the room ready to take on whatever the evening had in store.

My suggestion when you’re feeling stressed on your vacation find time to do something you love even for just a few minutes it’s amazing how quickly your soul re-energizes when you show yourself some love.

 

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This is me finding a little time to stretch lakeside in Nicaragua a few years ago

 

Master disaster

Tuesday and Thursday noon time yoga class at work is sometimes the only thing that helps me through a long work week. Today I rushed in 10 minutes late, flung down my yoga mat and practically belly flopped into downward dog. Not a pretty picture. My mind had been whirling with distractions all morning and I actually struggled to put on my yoga top arms flailing about in the wrong holes. I was a disaster.

Quickly I got into flow of the sequence and at one point while we are upside down trying to do standing splits (more emphasis on trying, less emphasis on the splits part) my teacher says “every Master was once a disaster” at which point I nearly fell over. One because standing splits is freakin’ hard but also because she just nailed it!

“Every Master was once a disaster”

So as we head into a new year I’ve adopted this as my go to phrase, my mantra of sorts because although I may never actually master anything, other than the art of being a disaster, you have to start from somewhere.

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