We know we need to balance work and play, balance our checkbooks and balance our diets, but the importance of actual, physical balance can get lost as we age. As kids we stand on one foot and walk on curbs, but unless we keep working at our balance, we lose the ability to varying degrees, which can lead to discord in our minds and bodies, as well as injury.
Practicing balancing poses in yoga class is a great way to learn how to get into and hold the poses safely. Most people think of standing poses such as tree and warrior three when they think of balancing poses, but by adding arm balances, inversions and core poses such as balancing table to your repertoire, you will feel the benefits of improved posture, coordination and strength more quickly.
Balance is literally about centering. We do this physically by finding the center line of our bodies and distributing our weight by focusing on the four corners of the feet. Mentally, we pretty much have to focus our whole attention on our positioning, so wandering thoughts are banished by necessity, allowing emotional calm.
Try these keys to successful balance poses in class:
- Realize the importance of gaze. Find a drishti, or unmoving focal point, and keep your gaze on it. This will help you eliminate the distractions around you, including wobbling fellow students. Gaze is an essential element of balancing poses: for more of a challenge as you advance, you can try moving your gaze upwards or closing your eyes.
- Use the wall and props. Blocks are especially helpful for bringing the floor a little closer. Learning to use the wall for a pose such as half moon will give you the proper alignment to move it successfully to the floor much more quickly than struggling with it at your mat.
- Focus on your foundation. If you are working on a standing balancing pose, solidify your foundation by spreading, really lifting and separating, your toes. We’re used to having our feet in socks and shoes and not moving individual toes, so in the beginning, this may take focus or actually lifting and separating your toes physically. In arm balances, you will want to do the same with your fingers.
- Become aware of the distribution of your weight. Again, start with the feet and make sure all four corners of the feet are bearing weight equally. Think about the center line of your body and make any shifts gradually and slowly. Imagine rooting into the ground and extending up through the crown of your head.
Try, try again. Balancing poses can elicit groans, giggles and frustration. But get back up and try again without rushing. Your body and mind fluctuate constantly, so make the small adjustments to keep steady. Realize that some days are better than others for balance, but you will show steady improvement with