Right-Side-Up or Upside-Down?

Sami is a yogi preparing to become a teacher, and I’m proud to call her my friend, my family. Follow her on instagram here.

Whenever we talk about success, it seems the word balance is thrown around a lot. In my practice, balance is an enormous area of focus where I never seem to lose the ability to improve. Physical balance is simple enough, we stand and we don’t fall, but emotional balance is a little bit harder to obtain and understand. These are usually the kinds of balance I deal with, physical and emotional, but as I deepen my practice and find new, more challenging poses to balance in, I have begun defining it in two different ways.

Emotionally and physically, there are two ways we balance. One is right-side up. We stand, we lift one foot and keep standing. We lean over and tremble, but keep standing. Physically, in yoga, we learn simple balancing poses such as tree and eagle first. It takes time to figure out where your center of gravity is, and even more time to make the poses look pretty or effortless. When we start, we grip in our toes and cling to the earth in desperation. With practice, we learn to lift up and reach more to the space above which we can’t hold onto. We will favor some balancing postures over others, and ultimately

Emotionally, right-side-up balancing is creating happiness in our normal conditions. Right-side-up emotional balance isn’t the height of excitement, it’s the comfort and contentment we seek on our drive to work, while we make dinner, before we go to sleep. To create this balance, this push and pull of positive energy in our day-to-days, we have to lean into the things we love, find what we love to do, and then find ways to do more or incorporate more of it into every day. The same is true of the activities and realities we don’t enjoy. Some things are unavoidable, but what if we took the time to identify the negatives and actively looked for ways to diminish the time we spend each day engaging with those things. It doesn’t mean we never take the trash out, but rather if it really impacts our happiness to have to go down to the garage at night, maybe there’s a way to avoid that. Maybe we take the trash out in the morning, maybe we make a deal with our roommate or significant other to trade chores.

Be creative, find balance on your feet, right-side-up.

Yoga_August 2016
You don’t have to hurt yourself to go upside-down. Lean in, go slow.

The other kind of balance is upside-down balance. In yoga, we call these inversions. We start by simply laying down and lifting our legs up over our head, letting blood flow the opposite way for a while. With time and practice, we enter the seemingly scary part of yoga, going up onto our heads and hands. Inversions are meant to push us past our fears and allow us to aim for stillness in an area of discomfort. If we’re in shoulder stand or forearm stand or headstand or handstand, we are making a new area of our body into our foundation and allowing that strength to support us. We may fall here, and it may hurt. It’s important to take care of our necks and our spines, but otherwise we get back up and we try again.


Upside-down balancing is usually not fun or easily practiced in our emotional realm. We feel this when we are trying to find stability in the chaos of an unknown or unusual situation. When a loved one leaves, is hurt or passes away, when we lose our job or wreck our car, our world gets turned upside-down. Finding balance in these moments, happiness and understanding, is almost impossible – and yet it’s not. We have the tools to work through these problems, and the tools to find peace in the journey. For a yogi, physical inversions may be a helpful way to calm the mind amidst chaos. This takes us out of our worry and into our focus, alleviating the noise inside our heads and giving us a new outlet.

Sami_Balance2Balance is not one thing, it’s everything. Balance is the crucial tension of energy between what we want and what we need, what needs us and what can wait. By practicing our right-side-up balance, and finding stillness on our feet, we set ourselves up for success in inversions, in the upside-down moments. The physical posture will be different on our heads, but the goal is still to find that peaceful mental and emotional focus that can bring us through even the hardest times.

On your journey to balance, commit simply to today. Today, what can you do more of to find happiness? Try it again tomorrow, too.

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