The OED online defines balance as: “an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.”
Incorporating a lot of balance postures into your practice can help strengthen your body and calm your mind. If you feel balanced and stable on the mat, you will have the confidence and calmness to bring that level of awareness to the rest of your practice.
Recently I’ve been really trying to focus on improving my balancing postures when I practice. Balancing is one of my favourite challenges in yoga; you get a great workout just by trying to stay up, and you hardly notice how hard your body is working because you’re too busy trying not fall over. I’ve noticed that in order to figure out inverted balance postures like crow, headstand, and shoulder stand, you need to have a good understanding of what works for your body in other standing balance postures like tree, dancer’s pose, warrior three and half-moon pose.
Focusing on improving balance poses can benefit your entire practice. The strength, stability and focus that you can build just by standing on one leg can be amazing. Certain people may find balancing poses difficult and discouraging, but once you find something that works for you you can really take off. Here are a few tips that have helped me in both my standing and inverted balances.
- Hold your core Always focus on keeping your mid-section engaged throughout your practice, but particularly right before you go into a balance. Trust me this will help you immensely; having a strong and stable centre of gravity is vitally important while balancing, you will notice a huge difference.
- Pull up Engage your standing leg prior to coming into your balance. Ground down into your standing your foot, anchor into the ball of your foot, lift up your toes and spread them across your mat to assure this. Pull up your knee and think about lengthening your quads into your hips. Having a strong supporting leg ensures that the structure that your entire body is standing on is stable.
- Focus your gaze Just pick something, anything to look at. And don’t move your eyes. This can be your reflection, a point on the ceiling, a point on the wall, or the back of another student’s head. You will find that keeping your gaze constant forces your body to remain strong, steady and stable.
- Breathe My instructors always say, “use the breath to help you”. Breathing deeply forces you to remain calm and helps your concentration. It is a vital ingredient to help you incorporate the techniques above into all of your postures including balances.
Another definition of balance from the OED is: “a situation in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.” Having your mind and body in balance with one another will help you absorb all of the benefits of your practice. Improving your balancing postures will not only calm you, it will also give you confidence to keep challenging yourself. It’s a great feeling to complete a balance posture successfully; to feel your body strengthen and your awareness deepen.