There’s no denying it, life is stressful. From the second you rise out of bed in the morning, to the second you collapse back into bed at night, stress is unavoidable. Some days, the stressors are big and seem to consume our entire day. Other days, the stressors seem to be small, but they make us feel like we’re climbing a mountain just to get through our day. Yoga is great for your daily life, whether you need relief from stress or are looking to maintain a calm, clear-minded state. Yet there are times when you need a bit more inner-peace on your mat! We’ve found eight easy ways to help you create and deepen a sense of equilibrium and tranquility for the days when you need a bit more calm.
What is equilibrium and tranquility?
Equilibrium and tranquility are often two buzzwords that come up in yoga, but what do they mean and why are they important? It’s easy to interpret these terms as just referring to relaxation, but in fact these are the goals of all yoga. Equilibrium, or samatvam, is a state of balance in which a person is not overly active, or overly passive, and is able to maintain a calm focus on a task. Tranquility is defined as the state of being at peace. Both equilibrium and tranquility are needed to maintain a healthy body and mind, and to live a fulfilling, happy life. A general yoga practice is a great way to cultivate the mental qualities of equilibrium, equanimity and tranquility, as it balances the body, mind, and spirit. Yoga also contains specific techniques to guide both our bodies and our minds into a deeper state of harmony, inner peace and oneness with the world around us.
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Yoga Tips for Equilibrium and Tranquility
The very translation of Hatha Yoga implies balance. “Ha” refers to sun, “tha” to moon, and yoga means “to yoke” or “to join.” When we create equality between the opposites within (solar/lunar, hot/cold, hard/soft), we experience balance. While this state of equilibrium and tranquility is inherent in yoga, we can also take steps to further promote and cultivate these qualities in our practice. On the days you need a boost of tranquility, add one or more of the following exercises to your regular routine.
Alternate nostril breathing is one of the most effective methods to center yourself. Try it after an argument, before a presentation, or anytime you feel anxious. By clearing and balancing the solar (pingala) and lunar (ida) energy pathways, this pranayama practice creates feelings of harmony and peace. Try starting or ending your asana practice with 1-3 minutes with this calming breath.
One of the quickest ways to gather scattered energies is through the repetition of a mantra. Mantras can be practiced silently or aloud, with or without a mala, though those who use a mala find that over time it becomes charged with intent, imparting a sense of well-being the moment the beads are touched. The mantra So-hum (“I am that”) is simple and powerful as it cultivates an inner awareness of being in the present. After several cycles of breath, the mantra may become hamsa, known as the White Swan Meditation. You can chant mantras at the start of your practice to calm and center the mind. You can also incorporate mantras to keep you present and focused while holding yoga poses.
The most familiar mudras use the hands and fingers to close pranic pathways, allowing energy to re-circulate through the body. Anjali mudra, the gesture of prayer, balances through the equal pressure of the right and left palms. For Bhairava mudra, rest your hands on your lap, right over left, palms up. Though this mudra is named for the fierce aspect of Shiva, it’s so simple and natural that it’s ideal for meditation or pranayama…or for a discreet energetic tune-up, perhaps while you’re seated on an airplane or at a conference table. In the feminine version, Bhairavi, the left hand is on top. As your awareness becomes more refined, notice the different feeling-tone between the two variations.
Attempting Vrksasana (Tree Pose) or Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III) teaches us very quickly that it’s virtually impossible to balance externally without first balancing within. Through the one-pointed focus of drishti, the mind stills. As the mind stills, the breath calms, and then the body becomes the teacher. In this way, we practice the niyama of svadhyaya within asana. Svadhyaya is usually translated as self-study, or the study of scripture and balance poses in particular can help us understand one of the seemingly contradictory themes of yoga, the inaction within action (Bhagavad Gita 4:18). Experiment with one of these practices the next time you feel off-kilter. Like Goldilocks, you’ll discover that between “too hard” and “too soft,” there’s a middle way that’s just right.
Some of the most calming yoga poses to relieve stress are the simplest ones, yet they can provide a powerful boost of tranquility to a sequence. You can find peace and tranquility by practicing calming forward bending poses like Child’s pose, Wide-Legged Forward Bend pose and Forward Fold pose. Hip stretches and heart opening poses are also helpful to promote peace and calm. Practice more of these types of poses and notice which ones create the most tranquility in your practice.
Yoga nidra is a Sanskrit term that translates roughly to “yogic sleep”, but it is not the same as the sleep we go through at night. It’s essentially a guided meditation designed to allow “conscious awareness of the inner space of your being” that is similar to Shavasana pose. It is a deep state of relaxation that is like hypnosis that can be added to the end of an asana practice or used independently to promote tranquility.
Playing some soothing yoga music during your practice is an easy way to help you get into the zone and return you to a place of balance and calmness. You can find yoga music that is especially designed for yoga practice to can help you reach higher states of calm and focus. It’s also fine to play any type of music that helps you attain a state of peace and calm.
Practicing in a calm and tranquil environment will boost your equanimity and also support all of the above techniques. Be mindful of the decor and environment when you choose to practice at a yoga studio. If you practice at home, take time to set up a soothing and tranquil yoga space. Choose a sunny and quiet room or corner in your house, and fill it with plants, yoga props, cozy pillows and blankets.
What are some of your tried-and-true methods for regaining your center and finding equilibrium?