By Renee’ Fulkerson
When I think of trusting my, body one of the first things that come to my mind is balance.
Balance – an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady. “she lost her balance before falling”
Similar: stability, equilibrium, steadiness and, footing.
First, of all how and where does balance come from in the body?
The vestibular system (inner ear balance mechanism)
The balance system works through constant position detection, feedback, and adjustment using communication between the inner ear, eyes, muscles, joints, and the brain. The brain sends messages to the muscles to make any postural adjustments required to maintain balance.
Balance is crucial in our everyday activities like walking, standing, and going up and downstairs. And more important to reduce the chances of falling or even injury. Often we are not fully aware that we may have weak balance until we try balance exercises. Anytime at any age is the best time to improve and maintain strong balancing skills.
Yoga and everyday life provide many opportunities to practice and improve our balancing skills. Walking, biking, standing, and climbing up and downstairs, to name a few. Funny, the things we need balance for in everyday life are the same things we do every day (well, sort of).
- Have the tires on your bike gone flat from not riding it?
- Are your new walking sneakers still in the box?
- Do you take the elevator to avoid the stairs?
- Are you standing up often once you have sat down?
And then there is yoga and Tai Chi. I have not done a lot of Tai Chi, so I will stick to what I know. And that is yoga postures to improve and maintain optimum balancing skills. There are many yoga postures to choose from, simple to extreme. I prefer to keep it simple. Work smarter, not harder. Here are a couple of balance postures I would like to share with you. I practice these postures with my students (one of the many yoga posture balance options).
Heron or Kickstand Posture:
- Come into a heron posture or kickstand position by placing your right heel up and against your left foot. Make sure not to dump into your hip like you are holding a baby on your hip. If you start to feel wobbly, ever so gently engage your inner thighs to fire the glutes muscles and check that your knees are not turning too much inward or too much outward.
- Draw some weight into the heel of the standing leg, in this case, the left heel. And then lift your left arm straight alongside your ear while keeping your shoulder down. The palm of the left-hand faces inwards with your fingers spread.
- Lift your right arm bending at the elbow and hook your fingers into the little valley right below the bulbous part of the back of the head. You can massage the area, which can hold a lot of tension, making sure you can see the tip of your right elbow at all times.
- Now take your SIP to inhale like you are sipping through a straw and keep your shoulders relaxed. Pause and make a fist with your left hand and pull down like on a rope. Start your S hale sounding like a snake with your teeth together, release your fist back to spread fingers, and create a bit of traction with your right hand in the valley. Remember not to collapse in your S hale keep, the space between the floating rib and the top of the hip bone (Iliac Crest).
- Practice this posture two more times on this side of your body. And when finished coming back to heron or kickstand posture starting position moving right into Tree Pose or Vrksasana (on the same side).
Tree Pose or Vrksasana:
- From heron or kickstand posture left foot is still anchored with weight in your heel. And your right heel is up and against your left foot.
- Arms come out on both sides of your body in a V. Palms facing forward with your fingers spread. Like you are pressing against a wall turning the back on.
- SIP inhale like you are sucking through a straw and slowly slide your right foot above or below the knee. I suggest staying below your knee when starting this practice. Pause at the top of the Sip inhale and feel your ribcage expand (shoulders down and relax).
- Fist your hands and then S hale like a snake with your teeth together (don’t collapse). Open your fingers and continue standing tall.
- Repeat two more times on this side and come back into heron or kickstand starting posture
Try not to judge yourself when it comes to practicing balance postures, remember every day is different. Stresses, distractions, and even a poor night’s rest can cause you to feel a bit more unstable than usual.