Improving your balance is one of the most common concerns with newbies who begin practicing yoga. Often, newcomers struggle with balancing poses (think Tree Pose, Half Moon, Warrior III), and that is perfectly fine! Over time, your balance can and will improve as you gain experience.
Having a good sense of balance improves posture, structural alignment, and muscle coordination. It also works small muscle groups that may be missed during regular strength training, and it helps us to feel more centered and grounded in our bodies.
If you’re working to get better with balancing poses, consider these simple tips the next time you head to the yoga studio.
1. Focus (visually)
You won’t be able to balance properly if your eyes are darting around. Finding one spot to focus on while you balance is extremely helpful. Generally, the higher the focal point, the more challenging it is, so begin by finding a point on the floor in front of you and then eventually work your way up the wall.
2. Focus (mentally)
You can make it through a yoga practice while your mind is somewhere else entirely, but balance poses are great because they force you to be present. If your mind is wandering mid-Tree Pose, you’re almost guaranteed to fall over. Being present and keeping your mind on the pose will help you to stay steady.
3. Don’t lock up
It’s normal to try to force balance by going stiff and rigid, holding your breath, and locking out your joints, but the actual key to balance is to relax. Keep a slight bend in your knees and elbows so that the muscles are able to engage, and replace strain with ease.
4. Take baby steps
Don’t let the “shoulds” get you down: “I should be able to lift my leg higher,” “I should be able to balance better.” These shoulds will stress you out and they will actually hold you back. Accept where your body is in the moment and work with it rather than against it. Start with the beginner version of a pose if you need to rather than trying to force the advanced version. When you work with your body, you will quickly begin to see improvements.
Oh and by the way, working on your balance is also a lot of fun! And it reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously. Do you want to avoid balance poses for fear of falling or looking silly? Or do you want to dive in, try that balancing pose, fall over, laugh, and pick yourself back up? You’re not just working your body when you practice balancing, you’re working on not taking yourself too seriously.
You can take your balance practice off the mat and incorporate it into everyday life. Pop a Tree Pose while brushing your teeth (using the sink for support if you’d like) or subtly balance on one foot while you’re waiting in the grocery line.
Remember, a balanced body is a balanced mind. Have fun with your practice and enjoy the wonderful benefits.
To really improve your balance, you may want to consider trying aerial yoga. This practice involves an aerial yoga hammock swing suspended from the ceiling or trapeze stand, allowing you to perform yoga postures on or inside the hammock.
Kate Horodyski is a freelance writer and traveler based in Halifax, Canada. You can find her on Instagram at @myspiritualroadtrip.
Image: Creative Commons user benjieordonez.