“Fall down seven times; stand up eight.” Japanese Proverb
- One-legged standing poses, arm balances and advanced twists, held for 2-3 breaths each and sequenced together into dynamic flows.
- Found in most hatha classes.
- Improve balance and proprioception.
- Increase focus and concentration.
- Enhances athletic performance.
- Improves balance and proprioception (the sense of where your body is in space).
- Increases body control and accuracy of movement.
- Enhances coordination.Increases body awareness.
- Strengthens the feet, ankles, knees, legs and hips.
- Stabilises the core.
- Improves posture.
- Reduces your risk of injury.
- Builds determination and perseverance.
- Enhances focus and concentration.
- Quiets and sharpens the mind.
- Morning or Pre-Workout—to activate neuromuscular pathways and focus the mind.
- Essential for all athletes.
DO YOU NEED TO TRAIN BALANCE?
Good balance is particularly beneficial in sports that require a high degree of agility, coordination and technicality but it’s a win for all athletes. From a physical point of view, one-legged standing poses are great for building strength in the feet, ankles, hips and core; arm balances build upper body strength, especially in the shoulders and wrists; and twists train balance, coordination and flexibility simultaneously.
From a neurological point of view, balance training is great for improving body awareness, body control and coordination; allowing for greater precision, accuracy and efficiency of movement; and for improving concentration. Balance poses and sequences are also fun and challenging which keeps you engaged in your training and your mind young and sharp.
ADVANTAGES OF TRAINING BALANCE WITH YOGA
- If you are practicing yoga to increase your flexibility, incorporating balance sequences into your practice increases the level of difficulty on the neurological level.
- Yoga offers great variety and complexity of movement to your balance training.
- In yoga, we practice static balancing poses but also dynamic balance flows that are more applicable to excellence in sports.
- Practicing barefoot enhances the effectiveness of the mechanoreceptors in your feet, that pick up subtle sensations as your balance shifts, making your movements more accurate and precise.
- In yoga, we practice drishti or ‘focused gaze’ in balance poses. Use of the drishti,much like the breath, enhances concentration and focus.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF BALANCE POSES
There are 3 ways that we can train balance in yoga.
- One-legged balancing poses, like Tree and Warrior 3 that also build stability in the ankles, knees, hips and core.
- Arm balances, including Side Plank and Crow that also strengthen the core and upper body.
- Twists, including Revolved Side Angle and Revolved Half Moon that also improve flexibility and coordination.
BALANCE TRAINING AND THE BRAIN
- Balancing sequences, not only train physical skills including strength, proprioception and agility, but also have significant neurological benefits.
- Balance training strengthens networks in the brain that control mental efficiency—improving concentration, focus and alertness.
- Balance training enhances coordination, body control and agility by speeding up neuromuscular communication.
- Balance training improves the ability of the muscles to react quickly and precisely.
- Balance training improves the integration of sensorimotor control from visual, proprioceptive, vestibular and motor inputs.
- Balance poses demand full concentration and the dropping of extraneous thoughts, which quiets the mind.
- Balance training requires determination and perseverance, which builds mental resilience.
- Balance training increases your confidence to try more difficult poses and take on new challenges.
REFINE YOUR APPROACH
“If at first you don’t succeed. Dust yourself off and try again.” Aaliyah
- As you stand in Mountain pose, distribute your weight evenly between 3 points—the base of your big toe, the base of your little toe and the centre of your heel—not pronating (rolling in) or supinating (rolling out).
- Fix your gaze (drishti) on a point that isn’t moving to help you keep your balance.
- Try to put aside distracting thoughts and bring your full attention to the sequence.
- Aim for stillness in the static poses and smooth, fluid transitions between postures. Try to make it look easy and graceful.
- Observe the subtle micro-adjustments that you unconsciously make to maintain your balance as this will enhance your body awareness.
- Don’t be discouraged if you fall over—just recover your balance and try to get back into the pose.
- Remember that balance is a complex skill that requires consistent practice.
- Even if you struggle with some poses initially, keep practicing them until you achieve mastery.
- And then challenge yourself to try harder and more complicated sequences.
- Next level: try practicing some of the poses and sequences with your eyes closed.
WHO SHOULD DO THE BALANCE SEQUENCES?
All athletes should incorporate balance training into their schedule and these routines will keep your sessions interesting and varied. I recommend you practice at least one balance sequence each week.