How do you practice yoga for balance?
Balance is more important than it may seem. We need it for every single movement, to not fall over, and to move efficiently. Learn how to improve your balance with yoga, and start moving better today!
Why is balance important?
Being able to balance essentially means keeping your body stable enough – both while moving and when you’re stationary – to be safe, and avoid injuries. To have good balance is to move with control and ease. The benefits of balance training translate into normal life, when you need to reach for something or walk on uneven surfaces, as well as athletic training.
Sometimes, problems with balance are physical, especially after a period of low activity. But even if you’re active, you can have balance issues if your training isn’t – well – balanced! In those cases, your muscles need to be reminded how to keep you steady, and a little bit of training will get you back on track. Yoga is excellent for that!
At other times, your mind undermines your balance – when you’re distracted or stressed, you may be unsteady. Yoga can give you direct feedback on your state of mind – if you fall out of a pose you can normally hold, things aren’t that peachy. And that’s also where yoga can help – it makes you more focused and less stressed.
What does balance have to do with flexibility?
A special function of your inner ear makes you automatically aware whether you’re the right way up, tilting or upside down. That’s crucial to balance but so is the deep stabilizer system – a network of muscles running deep inside your body, stabilizing all your joints. These muscles can be trained to become stronger but that’s not all – your big muscles also play a substantial role in balance.
When those big muscles, such as hamstrings, quads or glutes, are too tight they limit your range of motion. That may affect how you move, making you less stable. Tight muscles can also be pulling your pelvis or spine out of correct alignment, causing bad posture and balance issues.
Of course, strong muscles help your balance but they need to be flexible too. Once you’re not limited by stiff and shortened muscles, your body can move better – stabilizing your every movement in the best possible way!
Why is yoga good for balance training?
How can you learn to balance your body?
Yoga is one of the go-to methods recommended for balance training. If you’re a bit wobbly, yoga is super-efficient at making you move with control. Here’s why yoga for balance is so effective:
- Yoga strengthens your deep stabilizer muscles – those are muscles that you may not even know you have but are invaluable in keeping your balance. They are the deepest muscles hugging bones, and crossing joints to keep them stable whether you’re running or sitting on a bar stool.
They are not popular to train because you can’t see them so having a strong deep stabilizer system won’t make you look any different. And that’s where yoga comes in – it trains these muscles along with the big ones, so you don’t need to target anything specifically.
Virtually all yoga poses train your deep stabilizer muscles. When you start, you may not be able to hold your knee straight, or stand on one leg but after a few practices, you will!
- Yoga increases your core strength – this goes with the above, because many of the deep stabilizers are located around your spine, but core strength is more than that. Your core muscles help to keep your torso and lower back steady when you move your limbs. Or they move your core when your limbs are fixed in place – for example in arm balances.
The main core muscles are your abdominals (all of them), back muscles, pelvic floor muscles, and glutes. As you move through your yoga practice, you strengthen them all – or you can do a targeted practice. When you slip on an uneven surface, having a strong core can mean the difference between recovering your balance and falling.
- Yoga improves your body awareness and focus – your mind is always aware of what your body is doing but you don’t always pay attention. Yoga brings your attention to how you’re holding yourself, how you breathe, if you have one shoulder higher than the other, etc. Yoga also teaches you to be more mindful – present in the moment.
By doing all that, yoga improves your body awareness both on and off the mat. When you’re aware of how you carry yourself, you’re more likely to have good posture and body symmetry – and that improves your balance!
- Yoga speeds up your reaction time – when you lose balance, how fast you react is crucial. When you’re used to balancing in yoga practice, your body automatically stabilizes your movements faster. It means your reaction time to loss of balance is rapid, and can protect you from injury.
- Yoga trains your functional strength – it trains whole muscle groups in functional patterns, useful in your daily life. It doesn’t just train single muscles to make them look good, it makes you able to move your body weight with ease. And that’s super useful for balance!
What else can I do to improve my balance?
Yoga is a great balancer but you can always do more. One of the basic things that help to improve your balance is being active, and spending some time outdoors. Uneven surfaces stimulate your stabilizer muscles and the changing environment around stimulates your brain.
As stress can negatively affect your balance, sometimes it’s good to move but at other times, you may just want to stay still. That’s absolutely fine – you can simply sit and breathe. Yogic breathing practices can help you manage stress, and that, in turn, can improve your balance.
Try these simple breathing techniques.
5 Yoga poses to improve your balance
What yoga is good for balance?
These poses are great for improving your balance. You’ll know you’re getting better when you can hold each pose without wobbling. If you’re able to hold the pose straight away, train your balance by holding it for longer – or repeat the hold twice or three times.
Here’s a great balancing yoga sequence:
- Stand with your feet hip-width, plant your feet into the ground
- Breathe in, and move your arms slightly backwards
- Breathe out, bend your knees as if you want to sit into a low chair, and tilt your body forward with a straight back – just enough so you can brush the floor with your fingertips
- Breathe in, lifting your arms up above your head, lifting your torso, while keeping the knees bent
- Breathe out, keep your arms up, and sit deeper. Check you can see your toes peeping just in front of your knees
- Look ahead and stay in the pose, keeping your back straight, and knees parallel to each other
- Remain there for ten deep breaths, then return to standing
- Stand with your feet hip-width, transfer your weight onto your right foot and lift the left heel off the ground – establish your balance
- Then lift the whole left foot, and put its sole on the inner side of your right calf – establish your balance
- If you can, lift your left foot higher up, grab a hold of it with your hands, and guide it to the inner right thigh – left toes are facing down, heel is pressing against the inner thigh
- Breathe in, lift your arms up, join your palms above your head, and with an outbreath, lower your hands in front of your breast bone – stay there, balance and breathe
- Remain in the pose for ten deep breaths, then repeat on the other side
- Stand with your feet hip-width, spread your toes wide
- Bend your knees and lift your left leg, crossing it over the right, so that your left toes are next to your right calf – that may be enough. If your knees allow, wind your left toes behind the right calf and hook them over the shin
- Breathe in and spread your arms out, breathe out and bring the arms in front of you, the right crossing over the left one
- Bend your elbows, bringing your hands together, left fingers touching the palm of the right hand. If that’s not possible, it’s enough if the backs of the hands touch or try hooking your thumbs
- With an inbreath, lift your elbows up, and your hands away from your face, so they are aiming straight up
- Breathe out and sit a little deeper – bending the knees a bit more
- Remain in this pose for ten deep breaths, then repeat on the other side
- Stand upright at the front of your mat, facing forward
- Keeping the left foot in place and bending the knee, take a big step back with your right leg. When you land, turn your right toes to the right, foot parallel with the short edge of the mat
- Bend your left knee, so it’s directly above the ankle, and keep your right leg straight, feet planted firmly into the mat, front and back heel aligned
- On an inbreath, raise your arms in line with your shoulders, parallel to the ground, focus on your front (left) fingertips and breathe – stay there for ten deep breaths, then repeat on the other side
- Start on all fours, hands under your shoulders, fingers spread wide
- Step back, so you’re in a push-up position
- Press your hands into the floor, as if you wanted to push the floor away and towards your feet, lifting from your shoulders, not sinking between your shoulder blades
- Draw your belly button towards your spine and check that your lower back is straight
- Make sure your your heels are above your toes
- Stay there for at least ten breaths – over time, add more
5 Yoga poses to use yoga for balance and flexibility
These poses train your balance and flexibility at the same time. They may be challenging at first but with each practice, you’ll see improvements. As a rule of thumb, if you want to go deeper in any of these poses, always do it with an outbreath. It gives you more room to manoeuvre.
- Stand at the front of your mat, feet hip width and hands on the hips
- Take a big step back with your right foot, landing on your right toes – keep your pelvis facing forward
- Left knee is bent, and directly above the ankle – you may need to adjust your stance
- Breathe in, lifting your arms up above your head, palms facing each other
- Breathe out, keep your arms up, and settle in the pose – most of us can go slightly lower
- Stay in the pose for ten deep breaths, then return to standing, and repeat on the other side
Low lunge with a twist
- From a standing position, bend forward so your fingers reach the floor, and step your right foot back, lowering the knee to the ground
- Your left knee is above the ankle, hands are on either side of your left foot
- Breathe in and lift your arms up above your head, keeping your pelvis level, and join your palms
- With an outbreath lower your hands to your breast bone, then twist your torso to the left, and hook your right elbow on your left knee
- Use the knee as a lever to twist your body more to the left, keeping your hands close to your breast bone – optional: lift your back knee off the floor
- Stay there for ten deep breaths, then unravel, step forward and repeat on the other side
- Stand upright at the front of your mat, feet hip-width apart, hands on your hips
- Take a step back with your right foot – about the length of your leg
- Turn your right toes out, so your right foot is parallel with the short edge of the mat, pelvis turned to the right
- Breathe in and raise your arms in line with your shoulders. At the same time, push your left hip back, and it will shift your whole pelvis towards the back of the mat, under your body
- Reach forward with your left hand, and tilt your body down over your left leg, landing your fingertips on your shin, ankle or the floor on the outside of your left leg
- Keep your body strictly sideways, right arm stretched up, directly over the right shoulder
- Look up at your right hand and breathe deeply in the position – try to open your chest more – stay there for ten deep breaths
- With the last outbreath, turn your head to look down, microbend the front knee and come up with your torso – return back to standing and repeat on the other side
- Start on all fours, place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart
- Lift your pelvis up, creating a triangle shape with your body, your sacrum being the highest point – walk your feet a little further away if needs be, and make sure they are hip-width apart
- Keep your legs a little bent, and make sure they are parallel to each other, heels pressing towards the floor (not many people can put their heels down in this pose)
- Press into your hands, like you want to push the ground away from you, elbow pits are facing each other, head is hanging between your shoulders
- Actively push the sacrum upwards, sticking your ‘tail’ up
- Remain there for at least ten deep breaths
- Stand upright, spread your toes and ground your feet
- Shift your weight onto your left leg, bending the right knee to bring your right heel towards your butt – wrap your right fingers around the top of your foot
- Stretch your left arm in front of you to serve as a counterweight, and start tilting your body forward, pressing your right foot into your right hand
- Go slow, and stop at about 45°, then, if your body allows, go a little lower, keeping a microbend in your left knee, looking ahead
- Stay in the pose for five to ten deep breaths, then repeat on the other side
Yoga for balance for seniors: 5 poses
As we get older, we may become less active, and as a result, less stable on our feet. Some age-related issues, injuries, and lack of confidence in our abilities can all impair our balance. It’s absolutely normal to feel a little insecure but with these five yoga poses, you’ll improve your balance in no time!
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, lift your toes, spread them wide, and then plant them firmly into the ground
- Let your arms hang freely by your sides, make sure your pelvis is not tilting forward or back – keep it neutral, look ahead
- You can try shifting your weight forward and back, left and right to find your ideal middle
- Stay there for five deep breaths, then close your eyes and try another five breaths
- From the Mountain pose, slightly bend your knees and lift your left leg, crossing it over the right – your left ankle is resting on the right thigh, left knee is turned out to the left
- Join your hands in front of your heart, elbows are wide apart – or lift your arms up
- Breathe in, stay where you are, then with an outbreath, sink a little deeper and tilt your body forward – repeat this five times, then remain still for another five breaths
- Keep your standing leg in one line to protect the knee, and your back straight
- Return to standing and repeat on the other side
- From a standing position, bend forward so your fingers touch the floor, and step your right foot backward, lowering the right knee to the ground
- Your left knee is above the ankle, hands on either side of your left foot – use blocks under your hands to bring the floor closer
- With your hands still on the floor (blocks), shift the weight of your pelvis forward
- Breathe in and lift your arms up above your head
- Keep your pelvis level, facing the front
- Stay there for ten deep breaths, then bring your hands back down, step forward and repeat on the other side
Balancing table pose
- Start on all fours, hands under your shoulders, ankles under your hips, spine neutral
- Lift your right leg so it’s directly behind you, in line with your body – don’t let it lift your pelvis to the right
- Then, lift the left arm so it’s directly in front of you, in line with the body
- Keep your neck long, look at the floor underneath
- Hold the pose for five deep breaths, then change sides. Repeat three times on each side
- Start on all fours, and lower your forearms to the mat, parallel to each other, elbows under your shoulders
- Step your feet back, so your body is in one long line, lower back is not sinking
- Adjust your alignment – lift from your shoulders to prevent your upper back dipping in between the shoulder blades, keep your neck long, draw your belly button towards your spine
- Stay there for ten deep breaths, or more if you can!
Get started today!
There you have it. Now you know how to practice yoga for balance.
Training your balance has so many benefits – it prevents injuries, improves how you move, and makes you more self-reliant. Whether you are a hardcore athlete or you haven’t exercised for a while, your balance can probably use a little training. Start working on it today – even a few minutes will bring great results!