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Yoga hack: mastering balance

Most of us have had that moment in class or during home yoga where you nail a pose only to feel yourself begin to lean to one side for seemingly no reason. You try to straighten but are now rocking side-to-side and have to put a foot or arm down to stablise.

The truth is, a mix of mind focus and muscle strength are required to balance: we need to practice both to improve balance. In this article we talk you through some quick wins and long-term practices to make wobbly poses a thing of the past.

The power of the mind

As with many things in life, a calm mind can help your mind focus on the different aspects required to balance. We recommend spending 10 minutes meditating before your practice begins: try it and see what a difference it can make!

Once the practice begins, focus on being mindful of these 3 things:

  • Breathing: breathe deeply and steadily throughout the practice focusing on the sensations of each breath;

  • Focus: set your gaze on a fixed point in the room; retaining a soft focus on a point can help act as an anchor to steady yourself from. If your mat has a Form Grid, try focusing on an intersection of 2 or more lines;

  • Focus on your head position: the inner ear is key for balance so focus which way ‘feels’ like up or down. By being more in tune to these signals, the easier we find it to maintain balance.

It can help to create a trigger to remind you reassess these three points. For example: whenever the teacher asks you to move to the next pose, use this as a reminder to check breathing, focus and head position; it will soon become habit.

Creating a stable base and movement

Spread fingers and toes to make a more solid, wider base. Focus on making a solid connection, with as much of the foot or hand in contact with your mat as possible.

When moving from position to position, don’t move abruptly: transition slowly and steadily. It can help to imagine moving underwater, with the resistance of the water pushing against you, leading to flowing, smooth movements.

Strengthening: poses to help

A great deal of balance is down to muscle strength: if we have strong stabilising muscles, we are able to easily correct movement back towards the centre of gravity for a given pose.

There a number of poses which effectively strengthen key muscles used for balance; spend some time each week practices these poses to quickly see results:

  • Chair pose: hold for around 20 seconds. Try varying the depth and angle of the position for additional impact;

  • Tree pose: hold for around 20 seconds, before switching sides;

  • Eagle pose: slowly move into position and hold for 15 seconds. Repeat on the other side;

  • Warrior III: hold for 20 seconds then switch legs. To vary difficulty, try changing the height of the hands and back leg;

  • Slow lunge walk: a more dynamic exercise, lunge forward or backwards, moving slowly from side-to-side. Try to hold each lunge for 10 seconds while engaging your core. Start with 5 lunges on each side and experiment with different length and depth lunges;

  • Natarajasana (Dancer Pose): a more advanced position: alter how far behind you and how high you hold your foot. Hold for 20 seconds then switch sides and repeat.

Practice makes perfect.

The more you practice these techniques they will soon become second nature and the stronger the stabilising muscles will get, so unroll that mat!

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