The idea of balance has intrigued me for 3 decades but has intrigued humans for thousands of years. The more I study and experience in life the more I understand just how important this concept of balance is for true health and wellness: Balance emotionally, balance energetically, and balance biochemically. Balance feels good AND is what is what our body needs in every way imaginable. The concept of balance has continually returned to me in my journey and I think it is the key to good health, resilience, and wellness.
As a yoga teacher in my early 20s I learned the importance of balancing effort with relaxation, balancing strength with ease, balancing humor with determination, balancing inhales with exhales, and balancing the body with our energy and spirit. Yoga is a tangible practice of these concepts that the western world does not have a set way to study and feel otherwise. You could say it was my ‘gateway drug’ to balance.
As a river guide, living outside for months at a time and experiencing all nature presented, it was clear in a conscious and unconscious way how important balance is. Night and day, rain and sunshine, summer and winter, rest and excitement, smiles with tears, fear with relaxation, full moon and new moon, high water and low water, and more. Balance is part of the natural world and reconnecting with that ebb and flow is a primal part of being human and what we biochemically and energetically evolved in sync with. We are sadly far removed from this pace in our busy, fast paced, controlled world. There has been a lot of focus and research lately on the importance of connecting with nature and I think it is this concept of balance that plays a big part.
Balance is a fundamental concept in Ayurveda, which is the ancient medical practice of India and what I practiced in my early 30s as Mountain Rebalance. The entire philosophy is based around the fact that there is no right or wrong or good or bad but instead things that balance each person uniquely for them at exactly where they are in their life. We each have things that can balance our unique personality/energy and this changes during different phases of life, different seasons, different times of day and more. When out of balance for too long symptoms and eventually diseases manifest. All things have this ability to balance or throw us off balance including foods, spices, physical activity, breathing techniques, careers, and so much more. Spicy peppers and hot yoga might be exactly what one person needs to return to balance when it is exactly what will cause someone else who is already fiery to wobble out of balance and experience dis-ease, especially in summer. That person might need more rest/relaxation, cooling foods and imagery to balance them where those things would be too sedate for another who is already calm and still. We need to balance our energy instead of feeding what is. You can learn more about Ayurveda here if this interests you, it is fascinating mind shift. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-1117/Ayurveda-Dosha-Types-for-Beginners.html
I loved this ancient philosophy and healthcare model and practiced Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy for many years before I yearned for more ‘hard science’ and returned to school again in pursuit of ‘why’. Still, as I dug into biochemistry, systems biology, pathology, and nutrition the idea of balance was there again.
- Cortisol is our stress hormone and gets a lot of negative attention today when it is actually very important. Yes, excessive cortisol can cause all sorts of problems including fatigue and hormone problems but we need cortisol to wake up and feel awake and motivated for the day, we need it to decrease inflammation, and we need it to move sugar into the blood when we dip too low and need energy. The right amount of cortisol is important but too little or too much is the problem. Balance biochemically is like goldilocks, not too much, not too little, but juuuust the right amount.
- Our microbiome depends on a balance of health promoting bacteria with harmful ones that are always there. If the scale tips too far and harmful bacteria or yeast take over we might experience headaches, fatigue, cravings, muscle aches or more. We need our microbiome balanced so it can help us with energy, digestion, hormones, neurotransmitters, vitamin production, toxins, and more.
- So often people are fearful of cholesterol and strive for very low cholesterol but really we need cholesterol to make our sex hormones and to maintain the integrity of every cell membrane so each cell can do its job. We just need it balanced and in the right amount and form. So it’s not good or bad, we just need it appropriately balanced.
- Sex hormones require balance also, including the important hormones estrogen and progesterone. We need them balanced at the right times, not too much of one or the other. When they are balanced we feel motivated, calm, confident, creative and can reduce the pesky symptoms of pms and menopause.
- Neurotransmitters such as GABA and Glutamate depend on a balance to help us feel calm and motivated instead of fatigued and anxious.
- Our Immune system needs to be balanced so that it does not overwork such as occurs in allergic reactions and autoimmune disease but does not under function as occurs in cancer and when we catch every infection out there. We want it working enough, but not too much.
- In the digestive system we need balance keeping out the harmful or undigested particles but effectively absorbing and using the nutrients we do need. Even the best diet in the world could be causing damage if there are digestive imbalance
- The delicate balance of antioxidants vs free radicals is needed to protect us from oxidative damage and resulting diseases and dysfunctions. Balancing the break down and destruction of the old with renewal and restoration is at play here cellularly.
- We need balance for appropriate inflammatory reactions -using inflammation when we need it to heal but stopping chronic inflammation from causing pain and disease
The importance of balance in maintaining health both energetically and physically is obvious, so what throws us of balance?
Many things in today’s world can throw us off balance, tipping the scale too far and causing symptoms and disease, including past trauma, undected infections, emotional stress, pregnancy, childbirth, processed foods, overuse of antibiotics, aging, the Standard American Diet, environmental toxins, sugar consumption, chronic inflammation, mold, unhealthy relationships, lack of sleep, food triggers, not digesting the right nutrients, genetics, being over busy, not having a spiritrual practice, and more. These imbalances prevent us from functioning optimally and lead to symptoms and eventually to diagnosed diseases.
Balance is necessary for our body and soul. As the years go on I am continually grateful to have named my practice Mountain Rebalance. We all need balance and often that means reestablishing it. Come Re-balance with me.
Janel Ferrin Anderson lives and works in Truckee CA and is constantly working to balance her full life of family, work, play, and breath. She is a board certified holistic nutritionist, a functional medicine nutritionist, family herbalist, Doctor of Natural Medicine and believes in empowering people to take a front seat in their health and wellness.