Finding Your Balance
As we age, we lose balance. We don’t often think about this aspect of physical wellness; we are more familiar with losing muscle mass and flexibility as we age. However, integrating balance into your physical routine is important to help guard against falls, especially in older adults. Most of us tend to be familiar with static balance, which is focused on maintaining steadiness while in a stationary position (think standing on one leg). However, we tend to be less familiar with dynamic balance, which is remaining steady while moving (think walking lunges). Dynamic balance is probably most relevant to activities of daily life.
Yoga can greatly assist with balance through integrating techniques or poses that challenge balance. As someone quick to shift interest, the physical practice of yoga always keeps me coming back for more due to its endless possibilities. Poses can be performed in several ways to increase or decrease difficulty levels. Then poses can be sequenced in various ways to increase the overall difficulty or ease of practice. Exploring these possibilities is simply fun. Introducing a balancing aspect typically heightens difficulty. Here are some great ways to introduce balance into your practice.
Reduce Contact Points
One of the easiest ways to introduce balance is to reduce contact points with stabilising surfaces. If you are standing on two legs, move to stand on one. If you are standing with the base of your feet fully on the floor, move to tiptoe. If you are on all fours, try lifting a foot or a hand or both! Be mindful of your breath. We can get short, shallow breaths as we move into a state that introduces a new challenge. We don’t know if we are going to lose steadiness, and we want to be steady. Don’t focus on losing balance; focus on the breath; let your breath help you calm your thoughts, and move to a place of stability. And if you lose balance, fine. Land gracefully and go again.
You have mastered your Tree Pose with foot connected to the inner thigh, but can you now move from your tree pose into a Warrior 3? Can you move from that Warrior 3 into a Low Lunge? Transitions introduce a new dynamic, and yes, assist with dynamic balance as you try to maintain stability while shifting from pose to pose. These transitions greatly assist with coordination, agility, and awareness. You’ll find as you gain greater mastery in managing shifts in physical activity balance that you lend this growth to experiences in your daily life, both physically and mentally.
Close Your Eyes
Both the above approaches get even more challenging the minute you close your eyes. Finding a point of focus greatly assists with finding stability during balance poses. Imagine if that focal point were suddenly removed. Your sense of where you are in space is suddenly no longer there. Even poses and transitions you felt you had mastered can introduce a whole new challenge. I do not recommend trying transitions on your own with your eyes closed; this is definitely more difficult than remaining static as you are introducing movement without a clear understanding of where you are in space. In your effort to reduce the risk of injury due to falls, you do not want to injure yourself.
Balance isn’t only reduced due to age; it can be affected by neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s, conditions such as diabetes and vertigo, and even extensive sitting.
*Do not embark on any physical movement programme without first consulting your doctor.
This article appears in the April 26 edition of COVID Weekly. Read the full publication here.