Breathe, Balance & Keep Your Own Pace

Breathe, Balance & Keep Your Own Pace

Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.

A fundamental principle of yoga is the concept of balance. Every yoga pose is a balancing act between strength and flexibility, exertion and relaxation, front and back. When we practice on the mat we create balance between our left and right sides through matching sequencing on each side. When your body is out of balance, another part bears the extra burden, creating aches, pains and fatigue. What you learn on the mat about balance applies to everyday life as well. Hard work must be counterbalanced by relaxation.

It’s worth it to take a class with a good teacher who can help you with pacing and sequencing, if you can. If this is difficult, there are online classes or consider a yoga retreat or yoga workshop. In the meantime, here are some suggestions for your home practice.

If the choice is between counting seconds or breaths, I advise counting breaths. To begin, focus on a three- to five-count inhalation and an exhalation of equal length. Using this method, you can hold the average pose for three to five breaths. Your breath might lengthen as you continue to practice, but this is a good starting point.

As your practice progresses, you will rely less on the external cues provided by experts and more on the internal cues that your body provides for you. As you become aware of these inner signals, you will learn to listen, trust, and follow them, which will lead you deeper into your own practice.

Before setting the pace, set an intention for the particular class. Ask yourself, “What am I trying to accomplish?” Are you trying to get a sweaty, active workout? Are you trying to develop your capacity to relax? The pace of class sets the tone for your practice and produces different effects for the body and mind. These effects vary depending on whether you intend to elicit physical, energetic, or therapeutic effects, or a blend of all three.

Pacing is not a concrete science and one pace may be better than another from day to day (or even within one practice). The great thing is you have the freedom to be playful and curious. Listen to your intentions as a student on the mat and have fun!