The beauty of balance
As a Yoga instructor one of the most common criticisms I hear students making of themselves is “I could never balance like that!”. Standing on one leg or *gasp!* holding onto the other leg or extending it up or out seems to be the impossible goal one can only reach once fully enlightened. Balance does take time, it takes skill and it takes focus. But just as with any sport, skill, job or heck blog post… the determination and work you put into it will reap many rewards.
If you aren’t already excited to improve your balance let’s talk about some health benefits. For starters, balance creates strength in the joint and limbs involved. As you begin to work on balance you will feel your feet, ankles, legs, glutes and core all begin to awaken. This is your body fine-tuning itself. Your mind will also perk up. Balance requires brain power and helps to sharpen focus. Some studies even have shown that balance strengthens overall cognitive function. Finally, as with all yoga postures and practices the breath is vital. The breath fuels the balance, keeping you steady on the exhale while keeping you tall and focused on the inhale. Always remember to breathe during balance poses.
Now, don’t stress about your physical abilities. Yoga, including the balance postures, is a practice. Be present, be focused, be gentle on yourself, not judgmental. Essentially to improve balance, you need to be ready to accept that you will sway and lose the posture but that is okay. You can start working on your balance right now. Give this home (or office) routine a try:
Come to a standing position on a stable, flat surface while barefoot or in shoes with little to no heel. If you feel unstable or unsafe, stand near a table, chair or another object that is sturdy and within reach.
Close your eyes, if you are a little leery of this it is okay to keep your eyes open but maybe try to let your vision blur. Take an inhale stretching the crown of the head away from the body. Exhale relax the shoulders, feel the feet rooting down into the ground. Inhale, continue to stand tall; and exhale, root down. Keep your eyes closed or your vision softened. Just notice how the body, although firmly planted, still moves. Sync your breath to the movements of your body, become familiar with your body and feel grounded.
Press evenly through both feet and then begin to lift one foot. Avoid shifting the weight into the hip of the standing leg. If you feel the weight shift, try placing the hands on the hips.
I tell my students all the time, do not be a hero. Meaning do not go as far as you can or want to go right away. Start with your toes, then your foot.
Begin to extend the leg out and bend the knee working towards bringing the knee to hip height.
Do not overuse the hip flexors. This is a group of muscles that extends down the front of the leg, if you begin to feel pain or weakness in the “hip crease” that is created by lifting your knee, release the leg and try to bring more focus into the core and glute muscles (your abs and bottom).
On an exhale gently bring your foot back down to the mat or floor, and then repeat the process with the other leg.
Try this routine along with others to strengthen that feeling of balance within your body (search “how to improve physical balance” online to find additional routine ideas). Balance is an essential piece to our everyday wellness, helping us to connect with our breath and body. Do what you can to improve your balance today, because your body will thank you in the long-run.
Brook Armbruster, ΔK