We’ve all had moments where we feel out of balance, whether it be physically, mentally, or both.
Sometimes it can be the smallest thing that tips the scales of balance out of our favour.
When you need more body balance it's common to experience challenges like:
Yada, yada, yada… you get the picture.
So how do you create a foundation to allow your body (and mind) to re-balance faster with greater ease, and age gracefully to be one of those inspiring old folks?
Like this old lady ...
That’s what you’re about to learn with the 5 x S framework to a better balanced body and mind, that ages more gracefully.
A powerful lesson I learned when practicing Shaolin Qigong was the importance of honouring the Yin and Yang and applying it to physical and mental well-being.
There’s a Yin and Yang to everything in life, especially your body & mind and the way you take care of them.
Too much Yin or Yang and falling out of balance can happen as fast as a child running toward fairy bread.
When it comes to your physical and mental wellbeing, the broader your foundations of balance between Yin and Yang, the better you’re able to adapt in any given moment.
Bringing the essence of Yin and Yang into your physical and mental training doesn’t have to be complicated, it’s just something to remind you that everything is deeply connected, and that all things have a natural tendency to seek balance - if you allow them.
For example: too much working out (Yang), can over tax your internal organs, leading to fatigue, or potentially injury. This can be seen as your body’s natural way to help you re-gain balance through saying it needs more (or forcing you to) rest, or working in (Yin).
Big challenges can arise from not listening to the signals your body is telling you. Sometimes you have to get out of your head and become more conscious of your body.
The more you’re consciously aware of when you’re in Yin or Yang in your training and life, the broader foundation you'll build and you'll be less likely you’ll fall way out of balance.
Maybe you want to be strong, get flexible fast, build muscle, lose fat, improve your handstand, or have the physical freedom to play with your pets, friends or family without getting injured?
Whatever tickles your fancy, the problem arises when too much focus is placed on one thing.
This can leave you with a flat tyre in imbalance city. I call this narrow focus a ‘linear practice.’
This can lead you to become really great at one thing, with neglect to other important elements of moving your body.
Have you ever had a moment where you lose your pen…?
You focus so hard on where you think it is, and forget to notice it was behind your ear all along.
Developing a balanced movement and well-being practice is a bit like this example; sometimes you’ve got to take a step back and look at the bigger picture around you.
Before we get hung up on how to find 'perfect' balance in your training, it’s important to understand that balance isn’t a static state, like Yin and Yang it’s dynamic and ever changing.
The bigger picture to a more balanced body is about understanding the relationship between the Yin and the Yang and how they dance and interact together, to strike a relative balance that is suitable to you as an individual.
Without understanding the importance of these elements, you may find you have a less than harmonious relationship with your body.
Now you understand the bigger picture, let’s go through five principles I teach my students in to experience deeper levels of balance in both body and mind.
Your body is unique and formed by all the experiences you’ve put it through, up until this moment. In understanding this everyone will have different levels of ability with the five principles (called the 5 S’s) I’m about to share with you.
To best apply the 5 S's approach I teach; while you’re reading imagine each of these elements as a piece of a pie (this is a metaphor for your body)…
Then ask yourself these questions:
What proportion of each element has made up my movement practice until today?
Based on this, are there any elements heavily out of proportion?
If yes, then ask…
What elements do I need to do more, or less of, to bring more balance to my self?
Identifying and combining these elements was born from my intent to create a holistic approach to train the body and mind together.
Simple on the surface, yet infinitely complex as you dive deeper - this approach is a result of many years of learning, practicing and making mistakes.
When these elements are focused on with the intention of balance, I’ve witnessed some amazing things happen.
Let’s get into it...
When the waters are torrent it’s difficult to see your reflection.
The mind is the foundation of all practice in my perspective. Without addressing this first all other elements of training your body will ultimately be limited.
Imagine for a moment, you experience pain in your body...
How do you respond to this pain? Do you react to it and move away from it, or move towards it, with some sort of emotion attached? Or do you observe it to discover its source, beyond emotional attachment?
How you respond to the signals of your body often determines how you will ultimately experience your body.
The more still you can be with your mind and thoughts, the less obstacles will be in your way.
A great way to create more stillness in your practice is simply to be present with your breath and your heart beat. You’ll be surprised how much this can help in those moments of challenge, whether you're deep in a stretch or having troubles with your handstand.
The approach I teach is about allowing stillness to flow through all the elements of your movement and well-being practice.
Once you understand the importance of stillness, you can begin to practice and allow it to flow into the next elements.
After you feel as still as you can in a given moment, it’s time to stabilise your body.
Building a stable base from which to move your body is often neglected. I can understand why this can be ignored, as it’s not the most sexy thing to practice. It’s small and requires you to slow down.
However, stability is a small massive thing that will ultimately determine your long term success with the big stuff.
So if you're striving for something big, don’t forget the small stability work, or you may throw yourself further off balance.
This scenario may seem familiar:
...Perhaps something's missing, and a different, more holistic approach might be needed.
I’ve found the best success happens when you step out of the jumble of thoughts bouncing around your mind and come back to a point of stability in your body.
Here’s what I mean by stability:
The shoulder is a great place to test your stability. Stand up and circle your arms. Listen and feel… Any clicks or grinding? If yes, you may need some more stability (or an MRI to check the structure), even if you see yourself as strong.
Stability is supported by a balance of strength and flexibility, which is what we’ll talk about next...
If your body were a car - strength would be born in the spark plugs (the small little things that get the engine started).
Depending on who you talk to, physical strength can mean something completely different; from being able to handle heavy weights to performing feats on the gymnastic rings.
It may be just semantics, but I’ve found the wide variety of definitions about strength can get a bit confusing to most people.
My intention is to clean the slate, settle the confusion and bring more balance to the term strength.
To stretch is to create space, to move beyond your current limits into new found territory, into freedom.
If you imagine a long piece of healthy bamboo for a moment, you get a visual about the quality in your body stretching can create.
The result of a wise approach to stretching should be should be suppleness and full body flexibility and strength.
If you feel limited or tight in any of your movement, it would be wise to prioritise practicing your stretching.
Upon a base of stillness, stability, strength and stretching and consistent practice a solid physical and mental foundation can be developed, which brings us to the next ’S.'
The process to solidify is to practice the development of specific physical or mental attributes, to a point where they take minimal effort to maintain.
This is what I see as a state of new normal. This state is a reflection that your body and mind fully understand a specific type of stimulus.
Sounds simple right? Not exactly, the process to solidify can be a windy road.
During the process of developing new qualities in your body (like getting more flexible), your body can fluctuate in many ways as you give it stimulus to adapt to a new point of normal and solidify your progress.
Let’s look at how physical adaptation can happen when aiming to develop a new normal point for a quality like flexibility:
This is where many people can give up, but if you keep going consistently with a wise approach to flexibility, here’s what can happen,
You may not necessarily be in the splits after several weeks, but you’re definitely more flexible than you were before. Imagine how far you could go if you continued to humbly practice the above process.
This in essence is what the 5th ’S' (Solidify) is all about; to move beyond fluctuation, to a new normal.
To solidify your physical progress can be as easy as 1, 2, 3 … 4.
This is the essence I’ve found occurs. Perhaps in reality it’s not quite that simple, but the more you still your mind, the more simple it can get.
You’ve now learned some potentially powerful info to bring a greater sense of balance to your body and mind.
The concepts of a balanced body (and mind) we've covered and I recommend you understand is:
Here’s the 5 S’s to re-cap:
To get the full power you must read between the words and put it into practice. With consistent practice the side effects of being way out of balance can be a thing of the past.
If you’d like to be guided through the process of re-balancing your body, the first step we'd recommend is to assess where your body's currently at and identify your highest areas of need to focus on.
You can do that with our Physical Freedom Challenge.