Stability is a must for health.
To grow up healthy, a child needs stability (Children’s commissioner, 2018). Stable caretakers, stable meals, stable habits. On the other end of life’s spectrum, they key to live a happy and healthy life passed one hundred years old also seems to be stability. Indeed, longevity researcher Dr Martinez shows that the most common factor among one-century old people is to stick to a joyful habit and repeat it each day . A healthy diet, exercise, and mental healthy certainly help, but this is not enough. Whether it is a scotch “on the rocks”, a stroll with the dog or a cross-words ritual, the stability of a daily routine apparently does magic. For people like you and I who (I expect) are somewhere in-between these two ends of life’s spectrum, stability is also beneficial.
Stability as active
Stability in the form of a daily routine or a regular, healthy activity counts many benefits. The main one, which I see in myself and my clients and students over and over again, is its soothing of the nervous system. Here, repetition is key. The power of stability indeed is only amplified by repetition.
On a practical level, the repeated experience of stability lowers the mental noise, creates safety and relaxes the body, all of which allow us to connect to the present moment, again and again. This is in the present moment only that our system can understand “all is well” as it is now: the breath is going on, a ground lays under our feet, we are in a safe place. When we experience the truth and the safety of the now, our system can learn to come back to a place of rest, at least for a moment.
Such rest makes the release of emotions long held by the noisy tone of our busy lives possible, which (when handled in a caring and mindful way) only contributes to the further soothing the nervous system. The experience of stability can be a powerful resource to deal with stress and chronic anxiety, as it eventually will create a “safe room” that will gradually calm the nervous system in a more sustainable way.
Stability can take many forms beyond routines. In yoga postures or asana, stability has a lot to do with balance as well as the equilibrium between engaging muscles more than others. Yet muscular action is not all. Repetition, here again, is key. Repeating the same sequence, for example on both sides left and right, will have a calming, stabilizing effect. In addition, when creating stability in a joint, let’s say our shoulders, the intelligence of the body will feel stronger and safer, which in turn will affect the nervous system positively.
Stability as allowed
Both in yoga and out in nature, another way to experience stability is to connect physically the ground under our feet. The buzz word of “grounding”, on a pure physical level, basically depicts the direct experience of gravity. To experience gravity, allowing is key.
On a bigger scale, gravity is what makes our earth turn round and sustains life thanks to its essential stability principle. Gravity is always taking place and continuously keeps us connected to the ground: the soil from which we all come from and to which we humans, animals, and plants return to when life is over. No wonder, then, that the experience of grounding and the stability it brings us also bears many benefits.
It is easier to feel gravity when we stop. Whether we are forced to stop due to a sudden sickness, exhaustion, a shock or emotional overwhelm or whether we intentionally pause, gravity is always at work. It is what brings us back to a “safe bottom” from which we cannot go further down. Try to throw something up in the air, it will always land back on the ground eventually. One the most powerful direct experience of grounding is to lay down flat on your back directly on the floor, and gradually allow each body limb to relax and become heavy. In the past, I would go to Yoga Nidra workshops (a deep relaxation method) and after 45 minutes of practice, my body would relax so much that I would almost get blue skin marks behind my head and around my tailbone! Gravity, when allowed, is a stabilizing and soothing tool that is way more potent than any other muscular or intended activity or routine.
If we turn to the origin of life on this earth, we suddenly see that the stability that is at the core of life is a direct, cosmic blend of gravity and repetition: the earth rotation around itself and around the sun, and the subsequent cycles of day, night, and the seasons, or humans and animals’ heartbeat and breath. The repetition of these basic cycles in nature literally sustains life; and so does stability.
Stability in practice
How can you connect to stability right now?
Wherever you are, reach your hands to the closest stable structure; a table, a wall, a car wheel, your hips if you are walking. Gently but firmly, push your hands into it downwards as if you wanted to prevent it from moving. Take a coupe of deep breaths, and notice the steady quality, the reliable feature of this object not going anywhere. Also notice the firm direction of your hands, arms and muscular energy towards the ground, and if anything shifts in your nervous system as a consequence. This is the active facet of stability.
Then, make sure at least one of your feet is on solid ground, ideally both, and without pushing become a conduit for gravity. Relax your entire body, do not push anything anymore. Each time you exhale, imagine you send your breath out and down into the earth or the floor. Soften the skin and muscles of your feet and allow gravity to descend through them even more. Keep breathing, softly releasing towards the ground. Literally allow your body to be a conduit for gravity. This is the soft aspect of stability; allowing.
Stability in other places?
Naturally, stability can take many other forms. Just a quick google search on this word will show results for financial stability or political stability. Although concrete forms of stability such as a stable home, job, income or relationship might also be essential to our well-being, they nevertheless remain external. As a consequence, life will do that some of these “stable” forms inevitably will change or end. Holding onto and being attached to external sources of stability will thus help in the short run, but in the long run they will not be as effective as the inner stability forms described earlier. Our capacity to align with nature’s stability and find it inside of us can always be accessed, also when the structures around us are altering or even falling apart.