Read for Understanding, Scroll to the bottom for Doing.
Balance is not something that you’re born with. Have you ever watched a baby learn how to walk? Even just try to sit up right? There’s a reason they call them drunken babies.
These things take time, and maintaining one’s center of gravity can be a challenge for anyone and depending on so many things. Balance is something that comes from the give and take of information via the vestibular system and their messengers: Nerves. How well we move is directly related to how well our brain relays these details to our muscles.
We create balance by being balanced. What does that mean? Well visualize a scale. It has to have the same weight on right as it does on the left to stand evenly, right? Same with you: If you are not activating the front body as much as you are the back of your body, this is where you begin. If you are more top heavy than you are bottom strong, than that is your starting point.
In order to balance, we must engage the musculature of the hip:
the largest and strongest muscles of the body
an extremely mobile joint that fixes the spine in its upright position
guides the rest of the body into alignment
We can all work to improve our balance. There are literally hundreds of proprioception* (*a fancy word the describes our perception of and ability to maintain balance) exercises, but practicing yoga is one of the easiest and fastest ways to learn how to increase your balance, as you are gaining an immense amount of body awareness and engaging in total muscle recruitment: the cooperation of all of your muscles.
Yogi’s maintain something called Padi Banda. This is literally the activation of your toes so that they grip the ground, the muscles of your foot activate all the way up to your naval – meaning your shin and calf, quad and glutes, hamstrings and inner thighs, and all of your core. This is how you stand tall and maintain balance against whatever force may be pushing against you, all from those tiny muscles of the foot.
Exercises that work balance> Standing on one leg, knee lifts, knee lifts with extension, single leg hold front and back, single leg extension, Single leg standing with hip abduction toe taps, Single standing moving from front, side, and back. Single standing adding hip flexion and all above moves.
Yoga balancing moves> using wall and then progressing to no wall
Unilateral training> All weights and forms of equipment loading only one side at a time and working legs independently of one another.