What’s the benefit of practicing balance postures?  This is a question one of my students recently asked me.

Standing balance poses in particular strengthen the legs – ankles, calves, thighs and groin – because your entire body weight is supported by only one of your legs.  The three essential elements of balance are alignment, strength, and concentration.

Alignment

Aligning your body with gravity is crucial as this is what makes balance physically possible. Focus on your standing foot; press down through all four ‘corners’ of your sole and relax your toes.

Strength

Strength enables you to create, hold and adjust your alignment. Standing balance poses shift your body weight from both legs to one so your muscles can easily tire; it takes practice and patience to build strength in your legs.  Bring your awareness and breath to your standing leg.

Concentration

Concentration monitors your alignment so you can support your balance by correcting it throughout the pose. Focus on a single point in front of you – either on the floor or a wall facing you and try not getting distracted by any thoughts. As soon as you become aware of somebody else wobbling or falling out of the pose – you will too – so just ignore what other people are doing around you.

Here are a few of the standing balance poses that we have been recently practicing in class.

 

VrkasanaVrksasana (Tree pose)

Vrksasana is an upright standing balance posture. Normally I tell students to find a single point in front of them and to just stare at it. This helps to still your mind of thoughts and focus on the posture. For an extra challenge, practice this pose with your eyes closed. This teaches you to not entirely rely on the outer environment for support.

Benefits include:

  • Strengthens thighs, calves, ankles, and spine
  • Stretches the groins and inner thighs, chest and shoulders
  • Improves sense of balance
  • Relieves sciatica and reduces flat feet

 

Virabhadrasana III

Virabhadrasana (Warrior III)

Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III) pose is a challenging balance. Not only is one leg supporting your body’s weight, but you’re also at a right angle to the floor and not upright like you are in tree pose above. Whilst trying to maintain a steady balance, your arms are actively reaching forward and pushing upwards toward the ceiling, actively strengthening your core, shoulders and back muscles. It’s a whole body work out!

Benefits include:

  • Strengthens the ankles and legs
  • Strengthens the shoulders and muscles of the back
  • Tones the abdomen
  • Improves balance and posture

 

Dancer poseNatarajasana (Dancer’s pose)

I love this pose as you can create a beautiful stretch in your pectoralis (pecs) and subscapular (armpit) by your back leg pushing your arm away from the shoulder joint.

Benefits include:

  • Stretches the shoulders and chest
  • Stretches the thighs, groins, and abdomen
  • Strengthens the legs and ankles
  • Improves balance

Standing balance poses promote concentration and calm, as well as strengthening your muscles and improving your coordination and balance.  

These poses can improve our ways of standing and walking as well as how we perform many other everyday activities. And these benefits might actually prolong our lives, helping us avoid the falls that often lead to injuries and death among the elderly. (Yoga Journal Australia)

In my experience, balances are also a great way to learn patience with your body as I see so many students becoming frustrated with themselves and wanting to ‘get it’ on the first try. This is rarely the case! Often it takes a lot of practice to perfect a balance; not just alignment, strength and concentration but also patience, steadiness and ease.

References:
Australian Yoga Journal, July 2012
www.yogajournal.com.au

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