09/24/2014 12:50 pm ET Updated Nov 24, 2014

The Middle Way


Philosophers and thinkers have been telling us for centuries how important moderation is. Aristotle told us, "All things in moderation." Buddha preached of living the middle way, between the extremes. Mark Twain famously quipped, "Everything in moderation, including moderation." Although, if reaching our highest potential actually comes through balance and not the extremes, why does moderation seem so foreign to us today?

I believe today's fitness industry has become synonymous with the word extreme -- extreme workouts and extreme diets to get extreme results. It's commonplace to meet the triathlete thirsting for new extreme challenges, the body builder starving for extreme definition, the yogi searching for extreme poses and practices. These journeys can be incredibly inspiring, but in some cases, they can be the very thing holding a person back from ultimate health. In fact, finding balance in your routine could be the very workout that solicits the best results.

A sports enthusiast myself, I have found that balancing a wide range of exercises and activities has benefitted me the most. Strength training fuels my muscles; yoga enhances my flexibility; basketball engages my mind and opens my playful, competitive side; and together, they help make me a well-rounded athlete. If I commit to only one type of workout, I find that something else is inevitably neglected.

Imagine a seesaw. When one side becomes too heavy, it means the other side is not heavy enough. In other words, by becoming too extreme in one area of our lives, we are surely neglecting something else. If we become too focused on our physical selves, we may lose sight of our emotional self. If we become too results driven, we may sacrifice health and safety. If we become too relaxed, we may never reach out full potential.

Balancing does not mean you have to involve yourself in multiple sports. You can balance the mind by working the left and right brain regularly. You can balance the body by stretching and strengthening targeted muscle groups. You can balance the soul by taking time to be both meditative and playful. There is a middle way for almost every aspect of your life. Here are some important questions to ask yourself when seeking balance:

What is my primary goal? This is a time to get really honest with yourself. Are you putting your health in jeopardy to lose weight or gain muscle? This is not uncommon. Some people become fixated on external goals of a size zero waistline or six-pack abs, which may require taking extreme measures. Avoid the mistake of thinking only a toned midsection will make you happier and healthier as opposed to a balanced and stronger mind and body.

What are my extreme measures forcing me to neglect? If you know your routine is in fact extreme, then it's time to look at what is being sacrificed on the other side of the seesaw. Ask yourself what you are committed to and how it honestly affects other areas of your life. Ultimately, you may choose the more extreme path, but knowing what may get sacrificed can be empowering and provide clarity for current and future desires and goals.

Who in my life is a shining example of balance? It's always helpful to be inspired and motivated by someone. For me this person is my mother, Nalini Mehta. She lives and breathes balance, and as a result, is one of the healthiest people I know. Rather than looking to role-models who live in the extremes and make me feel less than adequate, I have a consistent reminder that reaching my highest potential comes through balance and that the middle way is a great way to staying grounded and accomplishing many goals.