Balance is a tricky thing. . .it takes years to master and the older we get, the harder it is to achieve. Make these yoga moves a part of your exercise routine and you’ll start seeing improvement in no time!
There’s nothing better to start your journey towards better balance than with tree pose. The perfect yoga move, it makes a great assessment of your current state and doesn’t challenge you more than it should, so it’s easier to start getting used to the new weight distribution. See, the problem with balancing on one foot is the fact we’re transferring all of our weight to just one leg, and now we need to learn how to make it as equally stable as two.
Ground the leg you’ll be balancing on by firmly pressing your whole foot into the ground, imagining your toes as roots of your soon-to-be tree. Activate the quad by straightening your leg; slowly bend the other knee, lift it up, and grab it with both hands, hugging it towards your chest. Inhale and exhale here, slowly feeling the weight shifting to your standing leg. Activate your abs by pulling your belly button in and up. Tighten your whole core by constantly “growing” from your standing leg and pushing it into the ground to feel the earth supporting you.
You can stay here and learn to breathe with just your knee hugged into your chest, or you can take it a step further and open the hip of your lifted leg and place the foot into your inner thigh or calf (avoid the knee area). Press into the thigh to create stability, and bring your hands in “prayer position” in front of your heart or extend them over your head, shoulders away from your ears.
When this step becomes easy, try placing the foot of your lifted leg into the other leg’s hip flexor, or lower it right above your knee and try bending the standing leg into a seat, feeling the burn in your glutes and quads. This pose is great for training your balance as there’s no risk for injury: If you fall out of it, all you have to do is bring your foot back down to the floor, safe and sound.
Working to strengthen your core is crucial when it comes to improving your balance. Activating your abs and lower back protects your spine and makes it easier to stay grounded, which makes you feel more stable and relaxed. All yoga poses that specifically target your core will be incredibly useful in your exercise routine, so whether it’s the knee-to-nose sequence, planks and side planks, or tackling the dreaded boat pose (yoga V-sit), they all work wonders in strengthening your core and keeping you prepared for all the balancing work ahead.
Getting into eagle pose helps you work on your focus and at the same time, keeps everything tight, which eliminates any risk of injury. Ground one leg and lift the other one as you bend the knee. Bend the knee of your standing leg and wrap the other one around it—whether you’ll be able to do it once or twice depends on your flexibility. No matter which version you choose to perform, it challenges you all the same.
Inhale your arms toward the sky and bend your elbows, bringing one under the other; try to come as close to clasping your hands as possible. From here, try to sit low and feel your glutes engage. At the same time, bring your shoulders down, stretching your upper back. Find your focus by gazing directly over your clasped hands and activate your abs by pulling your belly button in and up. Keep your breath steady and try to level out your hips as much as possible.
Eagle pose is great for stretching out the hips and working on your flexibility, endurance, and balance, all at the same time. When you start finding it easy, try closing your eyes. It will quickly show you how important focus is, as the moment you take it away you’ll immediately find yourself falling out of balance, no matter how stable you were a second ago. The trick is to imagine a point you’ll be able to focus on, even if it doesn’t actually exist.
Don’t stray away from supporting yourself before you think you’re stable enough to stay in balance on your own. Even if it’s just a tree pose, doing it near a wall you can lean on to if you fall out of balance gives you a sense of peace and makes you feel safe. This allows you to really work on all the elements without being afraid you’ll fall over.
This is especially important when it comes to more challenging poses such as headstands, handstands, and other inversions. Practicing them against the wall makes it easier to tuck in the pelvis, activate your core, press your hands firmly into the ground, and relax your neck and shoulders by separating them from your ears. Slowly, over time, you’ll be able to step away from the wall and start practicing without your safety net.
Another great pose for training yourself to use ALL of the elements that support a good balance—strong core and legs, focus, and relaxed upper body—is goddess pose. To the naked eye, it might look easy in comparison to other poses, but it’s pretty challenging once you start getting into it. For starters, you’re in a wider stance and you’re lifting your heels. That, in itself, is a challenge for your balance because you have to work harder to maintain the set-out stance, without bringing your heels back down.
This small motion of lifting the heels immediately activates your abs and inner thighs, and you’re quickly trying to find a spot to focus on so that you don’t allow your heels to fall back down. You can now asses your whole body alignment and figure out what needs to be worked on. For an added challenge, try extending the legs and bending them back down while keeping the heels lifted. Your abs, glutes, and quads will be burning by the time you’re done!
Improving your balance can’t be done overnight, and it takes a lot of time and hard work. Sprinkling these exercises into your workout routine can make the progress happen much sooner than you think.