As I write this we've arrived at the first day of Autumn, the fall equinox. At the equinox darkness and light are of equal length at most places on the earth. It's a balance point; and a good time to contemplate the balance in our lives.
Balance comes up all the time in fitness. We're improving our balance, balancing our diet, work and play, activity and rest and so on. Yet, often, when people talk about balance they are really describing some kind of back and forth action. Too far this way? Go that way. There is a kind of balance in that, sometimes necessary and appropriate, but it's a flip-floppy kind of balance that, at least for me, doesn't usually feel that healthy.
What if we just kept our balance by staying closer to our center in the first place? We know that when we are centered, be make better choices and create fewer erratic swings that have to be corrected or made up for somehow. And when we live from center, larger cycles of change take on a natural rhythm rather than making us feel we are being tossed about. But here's the thing: It helps to actually practice being centered -- to make going to center a habit.
As a body/mind discipline, Pilates, gives us an perfect opportunity to practice going to center. It's very tangible in physical terms. Pilates exercises build a strength and suppleness in the core of our bodies that gives structure, but also a fine-tuned responsiveness to destabilizing forces so that overall balance is maintained. We also get immediate feedback when our minds or bodies are unbalanced. We literally tip or have to fight for control. So, we calm our mind and go back to the core.
This practice we do in Pilates -- staying balanced in the center and being able to come back to center when balance is lost -- translates directly into daily life. You don't necessarily have to hit the mat if you feel yourself getting spun out, but you can take a moment to line yourself up, just as you would in Pilates class. Bringing your attention back to your core will help you get your mind and body centered again. You can do just that much again and again throughout the day.
And, as we know from Pilates, it's not about holding on too tightly or being too lose. There is more strength in flow than rigidity and more potential where there is flexibility. Again, it's about balance --staying close to center and knowing how to return when we get a little "out there".
I'm reflecting on this connection between what we do in Pilates, physically and mentally, and the balance we maintain in our lives because it doesn't occur to everyone that the skills they are developing in Pilates can be consciously carried into real life applications beyond being more physically fit. For me, however, this is as important a benefit of Pilates as being stronger, more flexible and so forth.
What is your experience? Has Pilates helped you in the overall balance of your life? Comments are always welcome.
More centering techniques: