Balance; it seems to be a huge part of life. Whether it's work-life balance, a balanced diet, balanced time, balanced exercise regime or even a balanced mind. For me balance is essential, mostly the balance between right and wrong, good and bad. I find in life if you try with all your might to do everything perfectly it ends up in a crumbled heap around you, the pressure is too much. But what is balance, how does it work and how can we apply it to our lives?
To begin with, the reason I was prompted to consider the idea of balance today was after a conversation in which concerns about the safety of Bikram yoga were raised. I have been practicing Bikram yoga regularly since the beginning of this year and have fallen completely and utterly in LOVE with this amazing workout. However, the concerns raised were valid ones, such as dehydration (especially from doing it too often and not replenishing afterwards) and hyper extension of joints, but in particular my knees. At first I was rather upset and panicked to think that this exercise I loved might not be all too good for me, but then I thought about balance. The things I know are that I feel amazing after each class, that my muscles, especially those around my back are stronger, I am more flexible and feel better in general since beginning Bikram yoga. But I also acknowledge that I should make room in my life for a balanced array of exercise which prevents the overuse of the same muscles etc, plus it helps stop boredom from repetition! So, as well as continuing my Bikram practice two or three times a week I am going to look into 'normal' yoga i.e. in a normal temperature and perhaps take it up too. Also, I have grown to love long, slow jogs through the parks and along trails, so I will continue that. The thing is, as much as people might try to be negative, contradict others opinions and make you stop doing something, life is a matter of balance and balance is what I shall do.
Of course the term 'a balanced diet' is thrown around all to often in the health, diet, fitness, weight-loss industries. But what the heck is a balanced diet?! There a quite a number of different theories out there that include the traditional food pyramid (carbs, then fruit/veg, followed by meats/dairy), the paleo diet (high protein and vegetables/legume consumption) and of course what I like to call the 'vego' diet (little-no meat, lots and lots and lots of vegetables and fruit, plant proteins, super foods, healthy grains). These three examples give you just a brief idea of how varied the ideas of a 'good' diet are. For me I try to balance, although I don't agree with the food pyramid and try not to eat an excess of white, empty or low-nutrient grains and carbohydrates. My mum is all for the paleo diet and so I do eat a reasonable amount of animal fats and proteins, but I also try to eat as many vegetables as I can, especially those that are packed full of disease-fighting nutrients and antioxidants. I also enjoy fruits, legumes, fresh veg/fruit juices, superfoods, unprocessed dairy, whole and healthy grains and the occasional 'treat'. On the topic of treats, this is where balance really comes into play. Some people like to think a treat a day is acceptable, some only once a week and others less frequently than that. Others treat themselves after a big workout, as a reward. I think the balance is between how often you treat yourself and also the quality of the treat you have. For me treats include a gluten-free brownie or other home-made gluten free, low sugar treats, or a lovely fresh smoothie (I don't get them very often in the boarding house), raw dark chocolate, gluten free toast with honey or some corn chips with mashed avocado. When choosing a treat, try to choose something that will still provide you with at least some nutrients or health benefits, for example a slice with nuts, goji berries etc in it, or perhaps some 70-85% dark chocolate so you can reap the antioxidant benefits from the cacao, where a sugary drink or lollies have essentially no health benefits and a LOT of health draw backs. One of the easiest and most effective rules is the 80:20 rule, which is essentially a ratio for good:treat or not so great foods. I think it is a simple way to put healthy eating into perspective, although for me ideally it would be more like 90:10, but everyone is different.
So, hopefully I have made the importance of balance clear. Just because Bikram might not be perfect doesn't mean I am going to give it up, just because I eat a brownie on the occasion doesn't mean that my diet is bad.
Keep healthy and balanced! :)