Updated: Mar 1, 2021
You never know what to expect. Balancing is challenging at the best of times, let alone when asked to stand on a squishy foam block in Tree Pose.
One day you're balancing well beyond your teacher's invitation to exit the pose, and the next, your big toe barely leaves the mat. Welcome to the beauty of balance.
We spend so much energy balancing our work and personal lives, but forget how important our physical sense of balance is. Balancing poses in yoga can prevent us from injuries, improve our focus, help us to relieve stress, and improve the function of the body’s equilibrium receptors.
Balancing on one leg in yoga poses like Lord of the Dance Pose or Warrior III, gives the muscles and ligaments around your ankle, knee and hip joints a chance to truly strengthen, while you tone and work every muscle in the body to hold you in a stable position, as you explore your centre of gravity. Your abdominal muscles are on fire as you engage the core to build control through the midline of the body. And speaking of the core, don't forget favourite arm balances like Crow, Crane and 8-Angle poses.
You have to learn to disregard external stimulations in order to stand stable and still for a while, making balancing yoga poses a great way to stay mentally and emotionally strong, especially in difficult situations. Extremely beneficial off your yoga mat to help you approach life with patience, calmness, and awareness.
On those days when balancing becomes a frustration more than a serene experience, here are my top tips to help you get back into the balance.
Lift up all 10 toes and bring them back down to the mat one by one, spreading the sole surface as widely as possible to give you a solid foundation from where to begin the balance.
Bring your hands onto your hips as you enter a standing balance, and notice if one hip lifts higher than the other. If it is, bring it down in line with the other and see if this makes a positive difference to the longevity of your balance.
Slow down you breath. On average, people breathe 14-16 times per minute. In your balance, aim for five breaths in that 60 seconds.
Keeping your mind on the task at hand can be one of the most difficult assignments of all when tackling a balancing yoga pose. Rather than thinking about what you're having for lunch, if you remembered to turn off the oven, or writing your next work email in your head, have a go at thinking only about the balance and what your body is doing in the balance. Be in the moment. Focusing on your breath, as mentioned above, is a great asset to have in your yoga toolkit.
Focus on one spot in front of you - your drishti. To test the true power of a drishti, interlace your hands and reach the palms to the sky, then lift onto your tippy toes, and now look up to the sky. If you love practising outside, like I do, the clouds drifting by are more than likely going to cause a few wobbles.
Smile. I know it can be hard to smile when you're in a complete state of concentration, but give it a go. Relaxing the muscles in your face, can help to activate the vagus nerve, sending a message to your body that it's time to relax and de-stress, which leads to long-term improvements in mood, wellbeing and resilience.
The mental and physical benefits of balancing yoga poses are powerful. Mental clutter pulls us off centre, disrupting our balance. It's time for a spring clean.
Louise FitzRoy is the Principal of Activ Life, a leading health and wellness company based in the Cayman Islands. If you enjoyed this article you may also like: The secret to better arm balances and Can yoga tone my body?