I was teaching a class about balance to a bunch of second graders this week. They were all standing in their strong, tall mountain poses, both feet planted firmly on the ground. As soon as I told them we were going to talk about balance, almost every single one of them lifted one foot up off the floor. Impulsively.
Once we were settled again. I began talking them through Tree Pose. Stand up tall and straight. Put your hands together at your heart. Try to feel a line down your center. Try to feel balanced, etc. etc. I told them to bend and lift their right knee up and out in front of them. And then the comments began: “This is easy!” “This is so easy” “Oh look how easy this is!” Kids always say that, impulsively.
Next we all took our knees out to the side and placed our feet on our calves. I planned on cuing the pose very slowly, step by step, building up to the final expression. But this was a bunch of eight year old kids after all, and some of them just could not wait! A few of them shot their arms straight up overhead, exclaiming yet again how easy this was.
Immediately, they started to wobble. Pairs of little arms were flailing about the room. Someone toppled over onto the floor, bringing a friend down with him. And the laughter ensued.
What could we do? No one was hurt, so they all had a nice, long laugh, and then we regrouped. We started over. Standing straight and tall, we brought our hands back to our heart center, and came back to our breath. A few good inhales and exhales and we were on our way again.
I explained to them that we can’t rush into things, even if we think we already know what the end result will be. We need a good strong foundation before we can move on to the next phase of the pose. We need our mountain first, before we can lift our leg. We have to find balance and steadiness with the leg lifted before we tuck it in. We have to find steadiness there before we raise our arms. And we have to steady ourselves once again before we lift our gaze up to the sky.
Each step along the way, we have to take a breath, and ask ourselves “Am I steady?” Because if you’re not steady, you’re not ready.
And a new mantra was born. I have been thinking about it all week. If you’re not steady, you’re not ready. It applies to every yoga pose. We have to be steady before we move on, before we take the next step, before we deepen the pose or take it to another level.
It applies to just about everything we do in life, everything we take on; our work projects, our relationships. We have to stop along the way, take a breath, and check in. Are we steady here? Are we good here? Is everything lining up the way it should? If it’s not, then there is no use moving on to the next level. We may have to be content to stay right there. And sometimes we may have to give it up and let it go completely.
Even in frustrating situations; driving in traffic, debating politics, disciplining your children, arguing with a significant other. Ask yourself if you have lost your balance? If you have become unsteady? Then do your best to hold it right there. Don’t take it to that next level. Get steady first. Take a moment or two, to breathe. A little bit of impulse control. It can make all of the difference.
Of course, it’s all right to be impulsive once in a while, and to jump into things. But we have to know that if we do jump, we might fail. We just might topple down to the ground, sometimes taking others with us.
We should take a lesson from the kids, if we do topple over. Have a nice, long laugh about it, and then regroup. Start over, standing tall, coming back to our center, and back to our breath. A few good inhales and exhales and we’re on our way again.
Ready? Steady? Go.