“So divinely is the world organized that every one of us,
in our place and time, is in balance with everything else.”
. – Johann Wolfgang von Goeth
There are many good reasons to want to improve one’s balance, with prevention of falls being high on the list. However, an often overlooked benefit is how balancing positively affects the mind and brain. After all, the brain is the main overseer of balance in the body. It receives and processes the information sent to it by the balance sensors, and then sends out instructions as to how to respond. It follows that balancing asana and exercises would have a direct affect on the brain in return.
One great brain gain from practicing balance exercises is that they can promote greater neuroplasticity, which keeps the brain supple and young, and enhances “higher” brain functions like reading, memory, comprehension, and mathematics.
Studies have shown that challenges to your coordination, agility and balance rewire your brain in a way that is fundamentally different from that of aerobic or strength training.
However, simple balance exercises alone won’t achieve this. Novelty and unpredictability are needed to encourage the brain to build new neural connections and pathways. That’s where using movement and unstable surfaces becomes important, along with not practicing the same poses over and over. While repetition may help your basic balance abilities, it doesn’t help so much with neuroplastic gains.
One more most excellent reason to practice practice balancing on one leg: research has shown that there’s a link between poor balance, cognitive decline, and small blood vessel disease in the brain. Subjects who had a reduced ability to stand on one leg were shown to have lower cognitive functions of memory and spatial awareness. Anyone who suffers from impaired balance, from children to older adults, should first seek medical advice. Then they should pay special attention to making balance improvements to help mitigate the risks of potential cognitive impairment or decline.
Meditative brain waves
The high levels of inner concentration required in yoga balance postures makes them some of the most meditative poses to practice. That’s because when we balance we’re challenging so many internal systems at once. We’re so busy focusing on not falling that there’s no space left for unnecessary thoughts! The deep inner focus required for balnce has been shown to cause changes in brainwaves, shifting the brain into a more tranquil state.
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 balance
For more yoga articles, updates, classes and workshops, sign up for my newsletter at the top of the page or like on Facebook at Ann West :: Iyengar Yoga. You can contact me directly by email or call (858) 224-2484.
© 2017 by Ann West. All rights reserve