Saturday, 16 May 2015

Balance on the edge


I have been talking about balance in classes this week.

My sequences contain a lot of one legged standing postures.

They help you cultivate stability and mobility around the ankles, knees and hips.

They are also one of the things new students find the most challenging about this style of yoga.

In this video I show myself refining my balance by practicing on the edge of a park bench.  You need to have developed a bit of confidence to try this.

Some of you will be ready for this type of challenge, some of us are still working on getting into balance on solid ground.

Below I share a few thoughts and tips on cultivating better balance.

A slow lift not a catapult 
When I look around in class, sometimes I see people flinging their limbs around in an effort to bring them up and balance.

There is often a bit of wild jabbing and toe-up-toe-down-fling-up-fall-down manoeuvring.  
Sometimes it works.

Most often it is just a bit frustrating for the leg flinger (from the looks on faces) and I am reminded of a baby bird just flapping its wings around but never taking flight.  Having said this I am sometimes guilty of this type of wild flinging--especially when practicing other types of balances like handstands!

When I balance I try to get a sense of the weight shift so the balance feels more like coming into flight.  The initial lift feels mostly effortless in the limb that raises--your foot almost comes off by itself.

Remind yourself balance is about subtle shifts in your centre of gravity.

It might help to think about old fashioned scales where you put weights on one side to try and match the weight on the other so that both sides are equal.

When working with your body you are gradually shifting more weight to one side so that the other side starts to feel lighter.  When you get to the 'sweet spot' the toe feels so light that raising it becomes irresistible.

In all of this, it helps to move slowly.

Feel the grip of the toes
When coming into a balance where the lifting leg is behind the body I gradually shift my weight forward.  If I move slowly I get to a point where the toes of the standing (front) leg naturally start to grip.

They do this so you don't fall on your face!

When you get that initial (natural) grip it is a good indicator that the back toes are getting ready to lift.

One you get that initial seemingly effortless lift, you need to put in some more thoughtful and active effort to raise that leg further.

Relax your face
You don't need a strong tongue, eyeballs, throat, or lips to balance.  But these places often start to get tight when coming into balances.  Perhaps because we are concentrating.

If possible, see whether you can relax those places.

You might notice that, on a physiological level, you start to feel more calm.  That will help with the balance.

It does help to look at the ground/floor with your soft eyes.

Be mindful of keeping lifted out of the standing hip
In the video I do a balance where the leg behind lifts then transition to bringing that leg in front of me and standing upright again.

In both types of balance I am working mindfully to stay lifted out of the standing (weight bearing) leg hip.

That means in my standing leg I am trying to keep front of groin open, keeping a sense of moving the outer hip towards the inner thigh, and rolling the standing thigh out.

Practice heel raises
The opening sequence in my classes involve a set of active heel raises to help cultivate stability in your ankles.

When we do these heel raises we try to lift outer feet toward outer ankles.

This helps to strengthen the muscles on the outer ankles and really helps with your balance.

I will need to post a video of that next!

Until then, happy and safe practicing.


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