We don’t find balance; we create it.
It’s beneficial to take stock of how you spend your time and what you are putting your energy into, so draw yourself a chart like the one below (adjust the categories if you wish), reflect upon your life right now and fill it in.
"The bad news is time flies. The good news is you're the pilot." Michael Altshuler.
If you are panicking right now, realising how out of balance your life may look and wondering how can you even out the wheel, listen up…
When it comes to charts like this, I find it’s helpful to zoom out and view it on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. Give yourself space and time to create balance. If we try and fill up all the pieces of the wheel (serve all areas of life) daily, not only can it become overwhelming, but it could be impractical and ineffective. Just as an athlete will mix up their training programme, have rest days, and ‘off seasons’ throughout the year, we too could benefit from finding balance over longer periods, instead of trying to be in peak performance and perfectly balanced all day, every day.
"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished." Lao Tzu.
When it comes to balance and harmony lets look to nature and its cycles, phases and seasons. It takes a whole year for the earth to transition through the different seasons; they are equally important, yet the earth is not trying to achieve all of them at once. They each have their time and place to take centre stage, and by the end of the year, there’s been a balance of all of them. The sun is out all day and hides all night, but by the end of the week, we’ve had a balance of light and darkness.
“You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.” Oprah Winfrey.
There may be times when your family’s demands take priority, and then other times, throwing yourself into a new job, house renovation, or studies is essential. If you are deeply immersed in something, it’s likely going to be easier to carve out specific time for the other pieces of your ‘life’ wheel using a monthly perspective. There’s a time for everything; start to become more mindful and wiser with how you spend it.
"The key to keeping your balance is knowing when you've lost it." Anonymous.
Awareness is essential, as is understanding the importance of not neglecting certain parts of the wheel of life. Together, they support your wellbeing. At least if you are aware that you are working too much and that it’s detrimental to other areas of your life, you can then choose to make some positive changes to bring about greater balance. But, unfortunately, many are oblivious that there are vast imbalances in their life on a weekly, monthly and possibly yearly basis.
"Don't confuse having a career with having a life." Hillary Clinton.
People overworking is far too common. Here are some signs of an unhealthy work-life balance…
- More than 40% of employees are neglecting other aspects of their life because of work, which may increase their vulnerability to mental health problems.
- When working long hours more than a quarter of employees feel depressed (27%), one third feel anxious (34%), and more than half feel irritable (58%).
- Many more women report unhappiness than men (42% of women compared with 29% of men), which is probably a consequence of competing life roles and more pressure to ‘juggle’.
"Reconsider your definitions. We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles, rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to mankind." Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.
I believe that taking care of our mental and physical health is the priority because the other aspects of our lives and those around us will suffer as a consequence if we don’t look after ourselves. So that is one portion of the life wheel I do recommend giving some attention to daily; sleep well, eat well, move, meditate, journal (reflection, appreciation, intention setting) and nurture meaningful relationships. Over the years, I’ve heard from so many different sources the health benefits of having meaningful connections with family, friends, community, etc. and practising acts of kindness/generosity towards others.
“The key to finding a happy balance in modern life is simplicity.” Sogyal Rinpoche.
From my personal experience, I create better balance in my life when I simplify it. I’ve many interests, hobbies, passions and wellness practices that I love doing, which alone could wipe out a day, no problem. Therefore, my life can be prone to being rather ‘full’, and so instead of trying to balance my life, I schedule my priorities. When I find myself overly optimistic with all the things I plan to achieve doing in a day, I consciously cut down on my goals to streamline my energy and stay more focused.
"Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm, and harmony." Thomas Merton.
The wheel of life is a work in progress, and it’s subject to change as the demands in your life change, so keep checking in with it and play around with what works best for you from week to week and month to month. I know for myself I’m better at carving out bigger chunks of time to dedicate myself to one thing, as it takes me a while to get into a deep flow. I know ones ‘ideal’ is not always possible, but it’s something to keep in mind; therefore, at least you know what you are aiming for to best manage your time.
Relating all of this to your yoga practice.
- Practising daily is beneficial (for mind/body/health balance) even for just 10 mins per day, but maybe for you, only three times a week is doable, and by the end of the month, you have still accumulated 12 practices.
- From day to day, and depending on what is happening in your life, your yoga practice can create greater balance within you. Feeling sluggish and unmotivated? Do an energising and uplifting flow practice. Overworked, tired and stressed? Practice restorative or yin yoga.
- Just like the moon has different phases, mindfully move through the different phases of any one particular practice: seated, flow, kneeling, standing, supine and rest, for example.
- In honour of the balancing cyclical patterns of nature, work with the Earth Element. It’s connected to the ‘Muladhara’ root chakra, so practice standing, rooting and holding postures.
- Another possibility, in line with the Earth (cyclical) Element, is to move through a few cycles of a sequence, keeping it the same or building upon it by adding a new pose with each repetition.
- Explore working with the Air Element and its corresponding circular/spiralling patterns of movement. The Air Element is also associated with the heart chakra, ‘Anahata’, so you could practice or choose classes that focus on heart-opening and back bending postures. (These two elements work well together – for strong, healthy backbends, you need strength in the legs and glutes).
- Practice a Mandala Flow, where you work around the mat 360 degrees in a circular direction.
“There is no such thing as work-life balance – it is all life. The balance has to be within you.” Sadhguru