Monday, December 3, 2012

Keeping balance in a body that resists change

As a practicing yogi, I have special powers. I can see into the future. If I wonder where I will be and what I'll be doing 5 minutes from now, I simply take a look around me. Chances are I'll be exactly in the same place as I am right now.

I heard that nugget somewhere and it stuck with me. The more I observed my actions, I saw it was true. If I am lying in bed in the morning, trying to talk myself into getting up, there is a good chance in 5 minutes I'll still be having the same conversation. If I am sitting on the couch, contemplating getting up and doing dishes, there is a good chance I'll still be there in 5 minutes, dishes congealing on the counter. The truth is, our bodies and our minds like to stay right where they are. They don't like change.

This may sound discouraging, since we all would like to be productive and active. We all have something we want to change, and discovering that we are battling nature, human and otherwise, is not helpful. Or is it?

In Ayurveda, there is a saying "Like attracts Like". In Ayurvedic terms, this means the elements that are strongest in our systems tend to absorb those same elements from our environment. If you're a light, airy, dry, cold Vatta-type, you'll feel especially cold and stiff on a windy, frigid winter day. A hot, fiery Pitta-type might feel uncomfortably hot and aggravated after a spicy meal. And, a sweet, solid, relaxed Kapha-type might never get off the sofa after consuming a heavy hot fudge sundae!

When our elements are in proper balance for us, all is well. We follow healthy routines. We can compensate for small environmental shifts. And, because the body and mind doesn't like change, we crave foods that will keep us in this balance. We have the energy to create healthy meals and exercise appropriately. We feel strong and happy!

But, what if a strong environmental shift comes along? What if we are hit with a big change, such as a move, job loss, heat wave, hectic schedule, disturbing argument, etc? What if the forces around us are so intense they bring out out of balance?

Well, same thing, only worse. If the heat in a fiery person is aggravated, they will become even hotter, maybe looking for conflict or craving heated physical exercise. An sad experience can cause a person struggling with heaviness and lethargy to crave a lie-in on the couch with a tub of Ben and Jerry's. And a major change can cause a disorganized, airy type to resist any attempts at routine and organization, puttering aimlessly while any real production ceases, wondering where the keys are.

Yes, this is nature. This is to be expected. Yet, knowledge is power. This leads me to my final, most exciting point:

Opposites create balance.

If Like qualities increase Like qualities, then Opposite qualities decrease Like qualities. (Catchy, huh?) So, when you are feeling out of balance, (and rest-assured, you know when that is), take a look at your cravings. Ask yourself, is indulging in this activity or food-type stuff going to make me feel better? Or, will it aggravate my imbalance? Can I put off indulging in XYZ, and try something totally opposite? At least for a few minutes?

This does require detachment and discipline. You need to recognize the imbalance, and look at it for what it is; too much of something in your system. Too much heat, cold, heaviness, airiness. Then, you need to determine what the opposite quality might be, and apply.

If you are feeling scattered and unfocused, resist indulging in mindless internet surfing. Try 10 minutes of meditation. Organize a drawer that you can later look at in pride and feel more grounded.

If you feel heavy and lethargic, eat a lighter meal, such as leafy greens or fruit. Go for a brisk walk.

If you are hot and irritable, resist the cardio-boxing class. Instead, pull out your bolster. Indulge in some restorative yoga and deep breathing. Then, make yourself a decadent ice cream cone.

Yep, someone has to get the treat.

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