Updated: Aug 23, 2020
Falling out of balance doesn’t matter really, and truly. How we deal with that moment and how we find our way back to center, every day, again and again – that is the practice of yoga … it’s about trusting that you will find your way. Cyndi Lee
by Run Jodi
One of the first yoga classes I ever attended started with a little breath work, some easy stretching and then a request from the instructor to ‘lift my heels’. At first thought, I didn’t even process the command. I mean I was standing, what’s the big deal? I just lifted my heels up high and ended up taking lots of baby steps forward and back to stay up on my tip toes. I immediately thought, ‘what’s wrong with me?’ Practicing balance or doing balancing exercises to me meant ‘tree pose’ where the yogi is standing on one leg with bottom of the opposite foot pressed agains the support leg or ‘Warrior III’ where the student was taking a bow with one leg lifted behind and arms reaching forward. It didn’t seem right that balance work was as simple as lifting up and balancing on my tippy toes with both feet, but it was and on top of that, I was struggling to do it.
The instructor looked over at me, and kindly said with a smile, ‘Balance is the first thing to go’. I honestly think I stopped and scratched my head. I mean, she said it nicely but she surely wasn’t talking to me. I mean – I consider myself young and athletic and she just confirmed the idea that I needed to start working on balance because I was likely to fall and break a part of myself!
I immediately went home and asked my husband to lift his heels. Yes, a trick question and yes, he struggled which was exactly what I needed to feel better about myself. I mean, that’s what husbands are for anyway.
Today, as an instructor, I use the pose (tippy toes) in class all the time. I modify it and fold it and redirect in in any way I can think of and balance has become a very important part of my yoga practice. Although I also love the advanced poses, I always go back to the simple and the basic when I need to feel grounded.
As simple as lifting the heels, engaging the core, activating the legs and arms, using the breath to balance and lifting the gaze to challenge oneself. Balance postures can be beautiful and impressive, they can be advanced and almost unachievable and they can be simple and beneficial.
As per the Harvard Health Publishing from the Harvard Medical School:
Balance relies on input from several of the body’s systems, including visual, vestibular, and proprioception. Balance training can do a lot to help keep us on our feet and active.
Ways to work balance into everyday life:
Stand on one leg whenever you’re waiting in line at the theater, bank, or grocery store.
*I prefer to try this at home when I’m doing dishes or folding laundry.
Stand on one leg when brushing your teeth, one minute on one leg and another minute on the other leg.
**As a dental hygienist, I love this one!
Practice sitting down and getting up without using your hands.
Practice walking heel toe – that is, like a tightrope walker, placing the heel of one foot just in front of the toes of the opposite foot each time you are a step.
Balance keeps us walking and in control. Balance gives us confidence to chase, climb, reach and react quickly to avoid danger and injury. Balance training is often overlooked when we workout but so very important.
So, give it a try. Balance trainers such as wobble boards, balance pods, balance discs and balance balls are available easily by a click on Amazon. Check it out OR just try lifting your heels. Remember, balance is the first thing to go…. 😉