The concept of maintaining balance has been significant in all aspects of life since the beginning of time. Ancient religions and traditions uphold the importance of balance, for example The Middle Path in Buddhism, the male and female energies of Shiva and Shakti in Hinduism, yin and yang in Daoism, and harmony between nature and humanity in Shinto.
In today’s society finding and retaining balance is still a hot topic, although used in a more superficial sense when referring to our daily lives, in my opinion. People focus on discovering a work/life balance, eating a balanced diet, and balancing their finances.
While I’m certain that yoga can help an individual find balance in most of these aspects of their daily and spiritual lives, this is much too large of a topic to explore in these few paragraphs. Instead, I will focus on finding one’s balance in a literal sense…getting into and holding a balancing asana on the yoga mat.
Finding my balance in many of the one-legged standing yoga poses…not to mention Sirsasana (headstand) and Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand)!!…has been a challenge since I first took up yoga about 18 months ago. So I have searched on-line to see what tips and ideas I could find to help my precarious balancing acts. I came across two very good articles from Yoga Journal, which I have summarized below (although I encourage you to read the entire articles if you have time, links have been included at the end).
To help with alignment, try:
– Initially practicing the pose by bending the knee of the standing leg and holding the arms in a lower position, to lower your centre of gravity.
– Spreading the toes and the ball of the standing foot, to create a broader base.
– Becoming aware of the four corners of the foot: the base of the big toe, the base of the little toe, the inner heel, and the outer heel, and evenly distributing the weight over the entire foot.
– Using the strength of the standing foot and lower leg muscles (by actively pressing down) to shift the centre of gravity towards the inner edge or outer edge of your foot, as needed.
– Being aware of the stability of your pelvis. Are your hip adductor muscles holding the pelvis level as you stand on one leg?
To help with strength, try practicing the pose using a wall for support and hold for as long as possible until the muscles are fatigued (do both sides and repeat several times). This will build strength in the crucial muscles required to hold the pose.
To help with attention, remember that your balance is not static…it must be refreshed moment after moment to be maintained. Thinking of your plumb line (ie. the line in space that your body would be in equilibrium on each side of) may help you stay centred. Attitude is also important – good humour and patience are essential. Find a fixed point of focus to gaze at, and do not become distracted by movement in your peripheral vision.
Finally, practice lots! Balance really does improve with practice…as far as I still have to go, I have already come a long way.
– Jen, Sep/Oct 2013 weekday am

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