Many people come to yoga for more balance in their body, mind, and life.
Scientific research suggests that yoga is helpful for overall balance, particularly specifically adapted yoga routines, including poses and cues such as those below.
1. Mountain Pose
There are two types of balance: static and dynamic. Let’s start in the relatively static Mountain Pose before moving into each dynamic pose. This is our foundation, allowing us to move through our day.
Try it with your feet hip distance apart and parallel. Play with bringing weight forward and back. Then try shifting side to side.
Finally, spread the toes wide and place them down (bonus: try putting them down one by one). Work your attention up from the feet through the legs, spine, and to the crown of the head. Imagine the head floating up toward the sky and feel how that lengthens the spine.
Three key factors work together to maintain balance: the physical senses, inner ear equilibrium, and vision. Let’s challenge all theses aspects of our balance in Tree Pose.
From Mountain Pose, slowly bring the weight to one foot and feel your center shift. Stare at a focal point (called a drishti in yoga terms) in front of you on the floor or wall, but do not allow the head to drop forward. Keep the chin parallel to the floor with confidence.
Choose to put the raised foot as a kickstand on the floor, on the calf, or on the inner thigh but never on the knee. Press the foot into the leg and the leg into the foot, establishing the new center line. Imagine zipping up through the core, but keep breathing!
Notice the natural sway, like a tree blowing in the breeze. You can even try the pose on the carpet, folded up blankets, or the grass outside.
Look up toward the sky, finding a new focal point and challenging your equilibrium. Then, close your eyes.
3. Dynamic Lunges
Since life is dynamic, with constant shifts, we should prepare with dynamism in our practice. Also, most falls happen in transitions, like turning a corner when walking to the bathroom or suddenly shifting directions while playing basketball. (Similarly, transitions in life tend to be the most challenging so it is good to practice grace during challenges in our practice.)
Start in Mountain Pose. Feel free to have a chair or the wall for support in front of you to start. Keep the feet hip distance apart as you step one leg back onto the ball mound of the back foot. Play with balance by bringing the hands to the heart center.
Step forward, pause, and then switch sides.
(Bonus: Mix it up by stepping back to Mountain Pose from the lunge.)
4. Fly in Warrior III
Here is your chance to fly!
From one of those dynamic lunges, shift the weight forward and lean the torso forward. Feel free to hold onto a chair or wall to start.
Lift the back leg. The more you lift the leg, the more you bring your torso forward toward parallel to the floor. Flex the flying foot and imagine you are trying to step on the wall behind you to activate the leg muscles. Soften the knee of the standing leg and smile.
Take time to challenge your physical balance. While practicing, you will fall at some point. This is good! Practicing falling gracefully, then simply smiling and trying again helps us build resiliency that we bring into our everyday life.
What are your favorite balancing poses? Share with us in the comments below!
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