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Improving Balance with Yoga

By Janice Krakowsky

THU JUL 30, 2020

My Balance is terrible. I need to work on my balance. I struggle with balance. These are statements I hear from students all the time. It frustrates them and makes them nervous.

As we age, our ability to balance tends to get worse. This can be a combination of things. I want to first address that there may be an underlying condition that is causing you to feel unsteady and you would want to get that checked out by a doctor.

If you get the all clear, it’s usually because we lose muscle mass and strength as we age. In order to offset this, we need to focus on building strength to increase our stability in moving.

You can start to improve your balance with standing exercises and movements, even just walking, but I want to walk you through the benefits that yoga has to offer for improving your balance.

Grounding- The first step is to get on solid ground. I mean this literally and figuratively. You want to set a good foundation. Start by setting your feet hip distance apart spreading your toes and widening your feet for a strong base of support. Start to bring your awareness to what’s going on. Where is your weight shifting? Is your weight even between both feet? How is your posture? Are you standing tall or slouching? Is your core strong to support you standing? Next check in with your breathing. Set the stage to be present. As we go through balancing poses, don’t rush them. Take the time to be present and intentional and keep your focus on the breath to help you find that stability.

Yoga Poses for Balance

As you try these poses try staying in each one for 5 breaths and working your way to holding longer.

Mountain- Start standing and set your feet hip distance apart (usually 2 fists width), rock a little forward and back and side to side to get your weight centered through both feet evenly. Start to stack your joints and activate your legs and core to hold you upright. Bring awareness to your posture. Breath here. Close your eyes, see if this challenges your balance as you continue to feel the ground beneath you.

Tree- From mountain shift your weight to the right foot and start to open the left leg out. Start with placing your left heel right above your right ankle with the toes still on the floor the knee opening to the left. If you want you can stay here and flex the foot lifting the toes off the floor for a little more of a challenge. Once you are feeling steady here you might lift your left foot to the right calf feeling the foot and the leg pressing into each other. You might assist your left foot to your inner right thigh still feeling that connection between the two legs, the floor, and the breath. Continue to stand tall. You might like the support of a wall or chair or your hands may come to heart center or lift overhead. Hold and then switch legs

Chair-From mountain or with your feet together, bring your hands to your heart and start to sit your hips back. You want the movement to come from the hips hinging, not your knees travelling forward. Keep you belly engaged, feel the strength in your legs not letting the knees collapse in, and keep your chest lifted. Continue to connect with your breath and perhaps you lift your arms overhead (not compromising your shoulders)

Standing Knee lift/ hip circles- From mountain shift you weight into your right foot and lift your left knee (only as high as you can maintain your posture and engage your core), start to rotate the leg around in its socket forward, out, back and together. Try standing tall and moving slowly, go in both directions. Switch sides

Dancer- From mountain pose shift your weight onto your right foot and bend the left knee so the knees line up and the left foot comes behind you. Keep standing up tall, core engaged and hips pressing slightly forward. You might stay right here or reach back for the left foot, still keeping the knees close together and the chest lifted, hips pressing slightly forward. If you are holding the foot you can start to hinge from the hip letting the left knee start to come behind you, still facing forward, chest lifted.

Lunge- From mountain pose, take a big step back with your left foot, allowing your weight to shift back with you so weight is in the heel of your front foot, the ball of your back-foot heel lifted and your pelvis is neutral and centered. Hands can be on hips or maybe on a chair or wall for support as you build strength to balance here. Keep your core engaged and breath. Switch sides

Warrior 3- From mountain pose, step your left foot slightly behind you coming to the ball of your foot. With your hands on your hips or a wall start to hinge from the hips. Keep your chest lifted, spine long, as you lift the left leg straight back. You may come at a slight angle or continue to make your torso and leg parallel with the floor. Strong in your standing leg, there might be a slight bend in the knee. From here you may explore arm position, keeping them on your hips, reaching them back, out like an airplane or overhead. Breathe and switch sides.

Once you have gone through these poses and have become familiar with them. Try putting some of them together and transition from one to the next and back again. This helps you with your transitioning. We usually don’t fall when we are trying to stand in one place, but when we are moving. This integration of awareness of the breath and moving through the poses will help you when you get off balance in your daily routines. It will help you correct yourself and prevent you from falling.

You can add these poses into your practice or try one or two of them where ever you are incorporating them into your day. When you are waiting in the kitchen for something to cook, in line in the store, or to get some movement in while watching tv.

Here are a couple short videos that you can see how to put some balance poses together. Try them out. I would love to hear how it’s going for you.