For all yoga practitioners, but especially for beginners, the balancing postures are generally considered the most difficult to perform, particularly the balance in a single point of support.
Even the simplest balance postures like vrksasana or Ardha Chandrasana require our full attention and focus. As soon as we de-concentrate, and we lost our focal point, we fall! The fall can cause a feeling of frustration, but it is inevitable and is part of learning!
In this article, you’ll get to know the benefits that the practice of these postures can bring you; you will learn how you can improve their performance and become aware of how the various technical factors of these postures may contribute to hinder or facilitate their implementation and control.
Balance Postures – benefits
– Develop balance and asymmetrical body coordination.
One of the most important challenges made by the balance postures, is related with becoming conscious of the muscle action coordination with a lack of physical and mental stress, to balance the body and keep the mind focused.
This is particularly important not only to progress in the yoga practice, but also for our daily life.
Usually in everyday life, we are not conscious of how we remain standing, or how we distribute our weight on both feet, in an unequal way. This will produce over time a set of imbalances and asymmetries of the muscular and skeletal system level.
The Tadasana, basic posture of the standing postures, is again extremely important not only for the reasons that we previously pointed (consult our previous article on the standing postures), but also because it will allow us to perform more consciously and effectively the balance postures.
When performing Tadasana correctly, we are able to have the perception of how we distribute the weight on both feet – and as mentioned, usually the weight is distributed in an unequal way.
Having this insight, we can then correct the posture.
– Contribute to the awareness of the correct body alignment
When you ajust a posture and you feel you’re losing control of your balance, it means that you’re not able to align the center of gravity of your body with the earth’s gravitational field. One or more areas of your body may not be aware, so getting adjusted and aligned incorrectly, which will cause your despair and imbalance.
– Allows you to educate the pointedness of mind
When you ajust in a posture of balance and you unbalance, usually what follows is the fall, or to put both hands and feet on the ground.
When this happens, it is common to pass by your head countless thoughts, feelings, and reactions that you have difficulty managing.
– At muscular level
The standing balance postures develop strength of the midle area of the body, particularly the most internal and deep muscles (called “core”) that help to maintain the balance of our body in different postures.
Particularly strengthen the legs and arms, and also the ankles, wrists and neck.
As we become stronger, we manage to easily create, maintain and adjust the alignment of our body in the postures and develop asymmetric control of various muscle groups in conscious and focused way.
Look further down in the article, the importance of proper muscular action.
– At the nervous system level
The balance postures allow the nervous system to develop greater and effective communication between different parts of the body.
The nervous system will have to manage the information coming from different parts of her body, which will allow you to become familiar in real time with a wide range of bodily stimulation, which probably otherwise, you would never get to manage.
The execution of the balance postures also contributes to our physical and emotional balance. If one day you are more emotionally agitated or shaken, it may be that you have more difficulty performing these postures because your mind does not stop. The nervous system becomes altered. But if you do not give up and mantain strong, the very posture herself will help you restore the lost physical and emotional balance , and quieting the nervous system.
Balance postures – Advices for execution
- Focus your attention on a point, on the wall in front of you to the height of your eyes, or on the floor in front of you.
- Mantain always a regular and deep breathing, preferably in ujjayi, ie without losing breath control. As always, the movement of the body should always follow the steady rhythm of breathing, so that it does not change, and the mind does not get upset.
- Develop sensitivity between the contract / relax and active / passive of the different body parts.
- At a higher level of refinement of the nervous system, your positive and conscientious attitude towards the practice of the balance posture, will have a major impact on their successful execution. Look to approach them with commitment and determination, but also in a good mood, humor, patience and curiosity – like a child who wants to stand up the first few times.
- Performs the postures on a flat, level and stable surface.
- Practice them preferably in the morning while you are still fresh and not fatigued at the end of the day.
- First Flex the two legs just before raising one leg and keeps the support one semi-flexed if necessary.
- Put the fingers of one hand on the wall.
- Keep your arms wide open to ease up balance.
Balance postures – Equipment to use
- Stiky-mat – it is anti-slip, it is essential so you do not slip and keep and better balance.
- Wall – to support the rear of the body, in cases of extreme difficulty; to support the side of your body; or with weak support, fingers. Also to assist you in the perception of the correct body alignment.
- Blocks – for example to put underneath the hand that will be supporting on the floor, on the postures standing on one hand and one foot
- Belt – to wrap for example the heel of the leg elevated in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana.
Balance postures – Precautions and contraindications
- People with disorders of the inner ear or balance (vertigo, Meniere’s disease) should practice the balance postures standing next to a wall for added security and support.
- Disorders in the central nervous system
- After Surgery
- Fragility or injury to the ankles, knees, wrists and shoulders
We will now see how we can coordinate in practice the 3 key factors in the execution of a posture of balance:
- Proper alignment
- The necessary muscle strength
- Focusing attention
Taking the example of vrksasana:
1 – Adjust and improve the alignment of your center of gravity over the foot of support and assistance:
- Starting from Tadasana (basic posture of the standing postures) to execute the vrksasana, the weight of your body is evenly distributed on both feet, and the vertical line as part of your center of gravity toward the ground, goes right in the middle of two feet – so the Tadasana is stable when your whole body is properly aligned in this posture.
- From the moment you raise your right leg (for example) and rotate it sideways, to do the vrksasana, everything will change:
- the base of support gets narrower (only the left foot)
- the rise and rotation of the right leg causes your center of gravity moves to the right side – to compensate automatically move your whole body to the left, trying to bring back the center of gravity to the midline of the body, which will now pass only the left foot.
- however, contrary to Tadasana, on the vrksasana you can not put half the body weight on the left foot chopper and the other half in the inner area of the foot, because you have your right leg too far away from your body – so you have to move the heavier parts of your body (hips and trunk) slightly to the left.
- It is here that the arms also have an important role. Intuitively we stretch the arms sideways, they will serve as a counter-weight and facilitate balance. You can use this system from start if you have difficulty maintaining balance. Hands clasped in front of the chest or arms stretched vertically make it more difficult to keep the balance, because elevate the center of gravity.
- Another adjustment you can make in the beggining that keeps the center of gravity lower, is slightly bend the supporting leg, which makes it easier – you can also apply this system to other postures of balance on one leg.
- Also enhances the balance and stability, if you firmly keep away your left foot toes, thus increasing the base of support on the ground.
2 – Use the muscular strength to maintain balance:
- Since our bones do not move by itself (is the muscular system surrounding them, that allows its movement in space), in order to manage to align the center of gravity as mentioned in the previous section, you’ll have to use your muscles to move around the bones to the proper position, keep them in that position and readjust them if necessary.
- It is therefore important that your left foot toes get stronger, the muscles around the joint of the ankle, the muscles of the legs, thighs, and mostly for the balance postures on one leg, strengthen the glutes (especially the small and gluteus medius) that allow maintain stable to raise the opposite leg.
- To strengthen these muscles that are very important, you must perform these postures regularly and hold them until you reach the point where you have that feeling that muscles start warm up!
Then undo the posture and change hand.
- Initially, there is an anunconscious tendency to use stronger areas of the body to execute the postures, leaving the weak or feeble, passive – this leads to a set of compensations and body misalignments that complicate the balance after on the postures.
- On the other hand, and if you have a lack of joint amplitude and / or muscle and tendon elasticity, you may be using too much muscle power to manage to maintain posture with some balance.
You should in this case practice other postures at the same time, that allow you to gradually increasing and developing muscle and joint flexibility, so that you can properly adjust the center of gravity without unnecessary effort – the alignment should not be replaced by simple muscle strength in an attempt to maintain balance.
3 – Mind Focus:
In order to remain in a stable position, in balance, your brain must coordinate an unnumbered set of actions simultaneously, using the nervous system to analyze the placement of the body in space, calculate the necessary corrections, and still oversee these fixes.
And this is only possible if you keep your attention focused consistently and continue it trough your pratice .
The focus of attention can be done in 2 ways:
Hence the advices we gave you above in which we use, in order to facilitate, an external point of focus.
Be attentive and receptive to this information is critical, to realize if our body is set as wanted or not.
Take advantage now to train the standing postures, not only during the practice of yoga, but also in any other situation and time of day. You can do the following experiments:
If when you go to work, you have to go stand in transport, enjoy this time for studying and practice the postures of balance. If you’re going on a bus or subway, for example, and without hook onto the bars with hands, seek up to realize of which actions you have to perform to keep your balance standing at that object that moves. More muscular action, more relaxed, what works best and how. Make experiences, but as long as you have some space around you, so you’re not fall on someone!
In the car, or in a taxi, and as long as you are not driving, you can try the following: sit very upright and “stiff”, and when the car makes a turn, or latch, keep this posture to verify what happens to your body. As tumbles or leans to one side and the other, as you lose your balance, for being so contracted.
On the other hand, if you’re going to move, to walk with various packages and bundles in hands, for example, as you manage balance if your hands are busy and do not want to drop the packages? What will be more important to keep you in balance, standing, if stumble and fall ? The feet sideways increasing the base of support, and slightly flexing the legs to lower the center of gravity, while keeping your packages tightly against your body, for example, is a solution.
And as these situations, there will be surely many others in your everyday life that will allow you to study, practice and improve your balance and also the balance postures in the yoga classes.
Tell us your experience, what are you exploring in everyday life, sharing with us fun, unexpected situations, the things that you are learning!