I recently tore my peroneus brevis tendon, located on the outer side of my foot. To test the extent of my injury, my physical therapist had me walk across a floor balance beam. I’m a certified yoga teacher and typically balance without much struggle. Yet walking forward on that beam, I tipped over every time.
Noting my frustration, the trainer asked me to walk on the beam backwards. I laughed out loud. “Really? I’m not even making it across walking forward.” Nevertheless, I reversed my direction and a funny thing happened: I made it across the full length of the beam with almost no trouble at all.
How was that possible? My physical therapist smiled and said that when I didn’t have the “advantage” of my eyes, I balanced better. Ironically, consciously thinking about balancing didn’t enhance my ability — it inhibited it.
That’s when I was reminded of our body’s own wisdom and what is often called “body intelligence.” Body intelligence is a form of intuitive trust; it’s not something you need to think about. You are born with it. My body intuitively knew what balance felt like and was able to access it, even with the seemingly more difficult challenge of walking backwards.
That experience got me wondering about how most of us struggle to find balance in our everyday lives: Is this something we know intuitively as well?
“Work-life balance” is an overused term that is sadly neglected in real life. Our stress and weariness have accelerated at an alarming rate over the past few years. Perhaps worse, being perpetually “out of balance” is accepted as normal.
Many of us turn to technology for help. Time management hacks, APPs that help us “unplug,” meditate, measure our heart rate, determine how well we sleep … we’ve become a society obsessed with using gizmos to measure how we’re living, instead of using the one tool that already has all the intelligence we need: our bodies.
I’m not arguing the merits of technology; I want to champion the idea that our bodies are actually the best technology we have. And, unlike an APP that’s made for mass consumption, your body is its own, one-of-a-kind operating system — a custom-designed “well-being” system, if you learn how to use it.
The connection to finding balance is always available to you. It’s waiting for you to pay attention, to seek it out, to stretch it, in whatever manner is necessary. The truth is, no one set of rules applies to every person. Balance is unique to you. No one is in your body except you. You have to feel your way into it.
In Kundalini yoga, we talk about humans having 10 bodies. The physical body is merely one of them; we have three mental bodies and six energetic bodies. Our challenge with balance tends to start in our energetic bodies before it manifests physically. So if your auric body is weak, you may have a tendency to conform too much to please others; if your pranic body is weak, you may be fatigued and look too much to food or stimulants for energy. These and other behaviors will affect you physically and nudge you off balance.
Like most good things, balance starts with awareness. If you’re not actively seeking it each day, you’re going to find out how imbalance appears for you — because your body will tell you. It will show up as a nagging headache; insomnia; a cold, because your immunity is run down; pain in your lower back or neck because stress gets stuck in your body. The imbalance will persist until you pay attention.
What does that mean? You may need to physically exercise. You may need to sit still and meditate. You may need to alter your sugar intake. You may need to go to bed earlier. Like an instrument, you need to tune in to your body to understand what you need.
To help find your balance you first need to put your physical body in a state of calm. While you may have heard about the benefits of deep breathing, the simple fact is that our minds follow our breath. When you feel stressed or out-of-balance, try this simple technique: Close your right nostril and breathe in and out only from your left nostril. Left nostril breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, the “rest and digest” state. This is a quick way to get your body to relax. Once your body is calm, your mind will follow.
When you access your own exceptional body intelligence, you will discover when your body feels relaxed, a state when you feel and do your best; when you are in flow. Relaxation here is not meant to be passive: it’s an active state of knowing, sensing and “being” versus analyzing, thinking and doing. Most of the day you are using your brain in combination with your senses, like me on that balance beam.
So, how else to tap into your own body intelligence to achieve better life balance? You can do it by listening to music, writing, artistic endeavors, dance, cooking, reading, gardening, walking in nature, taking a yoga class — often it comes down to a simple ritual of self-care. When you respect the pillars of your life that affect you mentally, emotionally and physically, you will start to feel more balanced.
Sound too “woo-woo”? Well, that’s the problem with using your brain. You can’t “logic” yourself into balance; you need to experience it on a continuous basis. You must be willing to trust your body instead of your mind: to turn off your “thinking” and tune into your “knowing.” Your body is a magnificent instrument that needs proper attention, tuning, and care to work for you. Recognize your body as the ultimate APP, and you’ll discover the natural, intrinsic, built-in tools available to you at any time.
Originally published at medium.com