“Happiness is not a matter of intensity,
but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony.”
. ~ Thomas Merton
Static balance is the ability to balance while stationary. It’s what most people think of when they picture a balanced position. To be able to balance statically your body’s center of gravity must be lined up above your center of support. When standing on two legs, the center of support is the center point between your two feet. When standing on one leg, it’s at the center of the standing leg foot.
Let’s pause to spare a thought for our fearless balancer perched on two narrow chair legs to the right. Notice how his center of gravity, the point between the weight of his trunk leaning back and his legs stretching forward, lines up above the two back legs of the chair he’s sitting on. The heavier weight distribution of his trunk and head leaning back make up for the slight forward positioning of the lower chair and table.
Dynamic balance on the other hand, is the ability to balance while in motion or when switching positions. Your body is being affected by two forces, gravity and momentum, each one pulling you in different directions. In dynamic balance your inner balance sensors have to work harder to keep your center of gravity above your base. This is the main type of balance we use during movement in our daily lives.
The progression of learning to improve balance is to begin with static balances. You could start by standing with two legs wide; then gradually narrow the feet together; then balance on one foot. Try each position first with eyes open and then with eyes closed.
Once you have mastered the ability to balance on one leg with ease, you can move on to more dynamic balances. Start by adding movement to a static balance by moving your arms or second leg. Then try standing on an uneven surface, like a pillow or two. You can even ask someone to challenge your ability to maintain your balance by gently pushing you as you stand on one leg.
Yoga & dynamic balance
In yoga we perform many static balances. They help build the muscular strength and mental focus needed for all types of balance. Yet in our daily lives, as long as we’re in motion we’re balancing dynamically. To do this well the body and brain need to be able to manage continual shifts in balance and adjust accordingly. The skills we develop in static balance are very helpful when it comes to dynamic balance, but they aren’t dynamic balance! That has to be added into your practice. It’s easy enough to do.
Try the following tips:
- Focus on the transitions between the poses. Moving in space from side to side in Trikonasana (triangle pose, see right) for instance, challenges all three balance sensors.
- Staying in mindful movement, try repeating your entrance and exit from poses several times over. Stay watchful of your alignment.
- When you’re ready, progress to repetitions of movement in a more complex pose like Ardha Chandrasana (half moon pose).
- Try balancing with one foot on a cushion or blanket.
- Move your arms or legs around it the pose while maintaining a steady base.
- Get creative and experiment with all of the yoga poses you know. How can they be made more dynamic, while you still maintain conscious presence in each moment of the movement?
Above all have fun with your explorations. Balancing is something we used to play at all the time as kids without even thinking about it. It’s how we learned to do it so well in the first place. If learning a task becomes a chore we’re less likely to do it. Choose to enjoy it instead!
More yoga for healthy balance articles:
- Strength & flexibility needed for balance
- Center of gravity
- The three inner balance sensors
- Static vs. dynamic balance
- Feet & ankles for balance
- Brain gains from
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