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What is balance?

Balance is a state of equilibrium: a condition of stillness and rest. It is often defined as 'emotional stability' and 'mental clarity'.
A balanced person is considered to have good judgement; a steadiness of both body and character.

Physical balance

Many people are not physically balanced. They slouch or stoop. Their gait (manner of walking) is poor. Often, an individual cannot comfortably stand on one leg.

Research shows that people’s ability to stand on one leg is an indicator of health and that getting better at standing on one leg can add to fitness and potentially lifespan. The inability to balance on one leg for 20 seconds or longer is linked in otherwise healthy people to an increased risk of small blood vessel damage in the brain and reduced ability to understand ideas.

The human body, when standing upright, is inherently unstable. We have a very small base of support relative to our height and width. When in good health we rely on our central and peripheral nervous system to integrate all the information coming in from our balance senses (eyes, inner ears and feedback from muscles and joints). We then engage the right muscles (feet, ankle, leg and core muscles, sometimes even the arm muscles) at the right time to make the necessary adjustments to our posture to stay upright.

(Professor Dawn Skelton)

Unbalanced is the norm

Do you sleep well? Are you clumsy? Is your life hurried and rushed? Do you have time for yourself? Is your back aching or stiff, especially around the base of the neck and the shoulders?
Are your moods erratic? Do you get headaches a lot? Most people experience imbalance: it often involves work, relationships, diet, poor body use and careless exercise.
People come to accept the lack of balance in their lives and do not imagine that there can be another way.

Seeking to avoid the negative

Usually, we desire one element (success) whilst seeking to avoid a less desirable alternative (failure). Happiness without sorrow. Health without illness.

Real life

In reality, we typically experience a mixture of positive and negative events. Sometimes things go in our favour, sometimes they do not.
Although this is less palatable than continual success, it is simply how things are. Balance involves good and bad, difficult and easy, favourable and unfavourable. This is what balance means...


Apparent opposites are actually part of a single process:

  1. Male and female

  2. Activity and rest

  3. Work and play

  4. Positive and negative

  5. Strong and weak

  6. Easy and difficult

  7. Up and down

  8. Left and right

  9. Front and back

  10. Increase and decrease

The list could go on indefinitely...


Hot is not separate from cold. They are both relative values; measurements of temperature. Everything is like this.
Wealth is relative to poor, inside to outside, fat to thin, appearance to disappearance, happy to sad, noise relative to silence, busy relative to still.
There can be no day without night, no weekend without weekday, no light without darkness. We tend to see things as being independent, when in fact they are joined.


Front and back arise from each other.
Difficult and easy determine each other.
High and low define each other.
Long and short measure each other.
Sound and silence echo each other.
Being and non-being are each other.

(Lao Tzu)



This is the Chinese symbol called 'tai chi' or 'the supreme ultimate'. The symbol contains yin and yang. Yin is black and yang is white.
Hard/soft, strong/weak, day/night, male/female are all represented by this symbol. Within the apparent opposites, part of the other exists. The symbol represents balance.
Yin and yang join to form a composite whole.


Balance involves taking more than one thing into account simultaneously. There is seldom just one side to any situation or just one factor to consider.
Learning to see the relationship of apparent opposites (and harmonising them) is the skill of balancing.

The art of balance

Tai chi is concerned with the process of balancing yin and yang, of returning the body to a healthy, natural condition.
It works on:

  1. Body posture

  2. Body usage

  3. Emotional composure

  4. Energy

  5. Relationships

  6. Mind, body, spirit

Balance is maintained through minimal energy expenditure, economy of action, emotional stability and meaningful use of speech.
Action is entirely proportionate to the demands of the situation.
Our syllabus was designed to balance the mind and the body every time you practice.

Emotional balance

Composure is emotional balance; the ability to remain emotionally stable in the event of crisis or stress. We encounter many things in life that might upset a person, tai chi teaches us to remain calm.


People cannot reasonably find a fixed point of balance in their lives because life is not static. The changing nature of existence means that we need to be re-adjusting constantly.
This process of continual re-adjustment occurs in relation to the changing nature of what is happening.
We cannot expect to be permanently 'balanced' because nothing in our lives will ever remain stable and fixed. Tai chi trains us to move with what is happening, to flow and change without resistance.

Finding balance

As a person becomes more balanced - physically and mentally - their health naturally improves. Balance is fundamental to tai chi. We must become aware of what is balanced in our lives and what is not...
Without awareness, life can become hurried and stressful. The emphasis in tai chi is upon enjoying yourself and being happy with who you are and how you are living your life.

Yin and yang are not in competition or conflict with each other but are complements of each other.
Balance is not a state but a process.
The Tao is a process, a dynamic condition of balanced moving.

(Ray Grigg)

Page created 19 April 1995
Last updated 16 June 2023