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Yoga for improving balance and flexibility

One of the hardest things for the beginning yoga practitioner is maintaining balance while practicing. Practice of yoga for improving balance and flexibility is really effective since we must hold poses still while maintaining our own body weight. This forces us to use all available balancing mechanisms in our body to stay upright.

Yoga for improving balance and flexibility

Yoga for improving balance and flexibility

Five Components to Our Sense of Balance

Balance is a rather complicated thing that many people take for granted. Take a look at the numerous body functions and mechanisms that must work for us to keep our balance:

  1. Inner Ear – The Inner Ear is part of your body’s vestibular system. Movement of fluid in the inner ear tells the brain where the head is in relation to the body. It also communicates the speed of movement related to the head – for example if our head is moving up and down or left to right.
  2. Sight – The body uses sight as an anchor for determining where you are in relation to the rest of the world. Through our vision we are able to sense where we are in relation to other objects and whether or not we are moving and how fast.
  3. Central Nervous System (CNS) – The Central Nervous System consists of the spinal cord and brain. It connects all areas of the body to the brain via a system of nerves. This nerve system can be thought of as the “command center” of the body because all movement and systems are regulated via the CNS. The CNS is then connected to the rest of the body such as muscles, organs and glands. In order for balance to be maintained, we must have a healthy and functioning CNS.
  4. Breathing – In order for the body to stay balanced it must have a certain level of relaxation. Deep breathing and relaxed diaphragm muscles will help the body maintain balance.
  5. Muscles – In order to maintain balance the muscles must be strong enough to support our body weight. It is also important that the body does not favor or use one set of muscles over another set. For example, if the lower back muscles are stronger than the abdominal muscles, one may have a tendency to lean back more than necessary while standing. This can negatively affect both posture and balance.

Tips for Improving Balance While Practicing Yoga

  1. Keep Conscious Control of Your Breathing – As I mentioned above, one of the easiest ways to lose your balance is by tensing up your body and taking short, shallow breaths. While hold a pose be sure to keep the breathing long and light and keep the body relaxed, especially the diaphragm region.
  2. Focus Your Eyes On a Point – Before attempting to come into a balancing pose, find a place in the room to fix your eyes to. For example, maybe there is a picture on the wall or an object on the floor. Whatever it is, fix your eyes there and stead yourself first before coming into the pose. As you slowly raise your body into the pose, keep staring at that same point. This gives your body a sense of visual orientation and greatly improves balance while practicing.
  3. Concentrate On The Area Requiring Muscle Strength and Stability – Whenever we come into a pose requiring balance, there will likely be one central area of the body that is most taxed in order to maintain upright. Lets take tree pose for example (pictured above). The area most taxed will be the ankle and leg of the standing foot. While remaining in this pose, focus your attention to the ankle and leg. Feel as each tiny muscle, nerve and reflex must work at all times to keep you upright and balanced. Concentrate on the tiny adjustments that must be made by the millisecond. Keep your mind focused on this area but…
  4. Don’t Try To Hard – I know this sounds counter intuitive, especially if you are focusing your attention to the area most taxed. However, the fastest way to fall is by trying to hard to stay upright. The key here is to relax and to trust your body. You know your task – to stay balanced in the pose. Allow your body to relax enough to keep you there.

Yoga Poses for Improving Balance

Tree Pose If you are not able to bring your leg all the way up, please rest the bottom of the foot against the inside of the standing leg. You can either place the foot by the shin, or up higher where the leg meets the body. Do not place the foot on the side of the knee.

Modified Side Plank-If this pose needs to be modified, you can bring the bottom knee down to rest the leg on the floor. Bend the knee of the bottom leg and bring the foot behind the body at a 90 degree angle.

Eagle Pose –To modify, do not wrap the lifted foot around the standing leg. If the shoulder stretch is too deep, you may cross the wrists over each other and place the hands in such a way that the back of the hands touch each other.

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