Since I started teaching yoga, I’m asked at least weekly how I manage to pull off my work-life balance. I have an intense job and a small child, so I suppose that I’m a natural target for this inquiry.
Most people - especially, in my experience, young women - are searching for a healthier distribution of time and energy. And most people are quite surprised by my answer: I approach work-life balance the same way that I approach Vrksasana (Tree Pose).
This foundational pose informs the way I seek to accomplish everything I need to accomplish in the course of a day, while staying present and enjoying as many moments as I can. Here are the 4 things Vrksasana has taught me about work-life balance:
1. Take time to set it up.
Tree pose asks for a lot to happen in the body: opening of one hip, an asymmetrical stance, standing tall on one leg, and ultimately, reaching through the fingertips. In that way, it’s a perfect metaphor for life.
I find the most depth in Tree Pose when I move very intentionally. I find my grounding in Mountain Pose, then work with opening the hip while keeping my toes on the ground. Then, I carefully slide my foot up my leg. Once I feel steady, I begin to lift my arms overhead. One step at a time, I work methodically toward my expression of the pose.
Off the mat, I work the same way. I don’t really multi-task, but I do have many things going on at one time. To successfully handle it all, I set up, just as I do in Tree. My life version of Mountain Pose is keeping my calendar up-to-date and using task lists. I’ve learned that engaging with my email in the morning while I’m trying to dress, feed, and interact with my daughter doesn’t work, so I check my email once before she wakes up, and not again until I arrive at the office.
I’m most energetic in the morning, so I try to schedule important meetings then and save paperwork for the afternoon. By working with one action at a time, methodically building toward the end of the day, I feel the sense of steadiness that I find when I approach Tree Pose thoughtfully.
2. Form helpful habits.
Early in my practice, I formed a habit of occasionally lifting all of the toes in my standing leg, so that I use the muscles of my leg and the support in my entire foot in Tree. The second I start to grip with my toes, I lift all five toes again, then gently set them down.
I’m working at forming helpful habits like this in my life. I file every email message away as soon as I’ve dealt with it. I take notes in meetings. If I hear a song on the radio that would be perfect for my Tuesday evening yoga class, I jot it down in a notebook on my phone. These tiny, almost unconscious things that I do over and over help keep me from feeling scattered or overwhelmed.
3. Welcome support.
It’s amazing how standing in front of, or beside a wall enables me to stay in Tree Pose much longer than I can away from the wall. Even if I never make contact with the wall, just knowing that support is available helps me find greater steadiness in the pose.
Until a few years ago, I insisted on doing everything myself. I’ve since learned how limiting that is. Now, in my life, support is critical. I work with a strong team and rely on my team members to solve problems independently. Friends and family are essential to helping my husband and I care for our daughter and our sweet miniature schnauzer. Knowing that I have this support propels me forward and enables me to handle more than I could alone.
4. Expect to fall in and out.
Yoga teachers often note that balance is not static—it’s the constant shifting of weight from side-to-side. As we stand in Tree, our muscles are moving and working the entire time to direct us back toward center as we fall in and out of the pose. Even the most experienced practitioners “wobble”—it’s just that perhaps the wobbling is so subtle that it’s imperceptible.
Similarly, work-life balance is not a magical state that can be achieved and permanently sustained; we’re constantly falling in and out. I have weeks that are mostly focused on being a wife and mom: planning family events, cooking dinners, making crafts, heading to gymnastics practice. Other weeks require more focus on work, sometimes involving travel, late night documents, and serious thought that permeates the weekend.
As long as I can recognize when I’m falling out of balance, and move with the intention of coming back toward center, I avoid guilt and self-doubt. Just remembering that I’m working with balance helps me achieve it.
I’ve found Tree Pose to be an incredibly powerful teacher and know that I’ll be working with it and with my sense of balance off the mat for years to come.
by Beth Silvers - Beth is a wife, mom, sister, friend, recovering lawyer, HR executive, and yoga teacher (RYT-200, Curvy Yoga Certified). She teaches at Full Body Fitness & Yoga in northern KY. Find out more about Beth and connect with her on Facebook.
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