Yoga for Balance
Balance. It’s something I struggle to maintain in my life. And I know that many other people do as well. The pressures and demands of family and work, household chores, paying bills, and social obligations pile up and we allow less and less time for ourselves. We ignore the signs our bodies send us. Often ignoring them until it’s too late. And it’s only when we’re in extreme physical pain, or depression takes hold, or our body collapses under the pressure and we can do no more, that we realise that we’ve let our life get out of balance.
There are many amazing postures that support you to bring the mind, body and soul back to balance. Not just the physical skill of balancing, but the act of balancing the breath so that it is even. Or performing a posture on one side and then the other, so that the body is moved evenly. We start to create patterns of balance in the body, which then support the mind to become more balanced too. Here are a few of my favourite postures for restoring balance in my mind, body and soul…
Sitting on your heels with your knees together, gently fold forward over your thighs. Arms can be relaxed out past the head with the palms on the floor or alongside the legs (as pictured). Forehead rests on the mat. Child’s pose is a counter pose for back bends and many other poses or is used as a pose to provide the body with time and space to relax between movements.
Benefits: Calming, relieves fatigue and stress, stretches hips, thighs and ankles.
Tips: If you find sitting on your heels to be a challenge, place a folded up blanket/towel or a cushion between your heels and bottom for support. To create more space for the chest/abdomen in this pose, take the knees wide (pointing towards the outer edges of the mat) and then fold the body forward, stretching your arms gently out in front of your body. For any neck tension, place a folded blanket/towel under your forehead to lessen the stretch through the neck.
Mountain Pose/Tadasana with breathing
Stand with your big toes touching, heels slightly apart. Shift your weight to feel it evenly distributed through your whole foot (rather than just through the heels). Draw the muscles of the legs and the kneecaps up towards your upper body, engaging the thighs. Gently tuck your tailbone down and your pubic bone up towards your belly. Lift and straighten through the abdomen, spine, chest neck and out the crown of the head, feeling your body reach its full height. Roll the shoulders back, the shoulder blades relaxing down the spine. Lengthen the arms down beside the body, stretching through the fingers. Relax the face and soften or close the eyes.
Inhale deeply feeling the abdomen and chest rise and expand. Exhale completely feeling the abdomen and chest deflate and relax. Continue to breathe deeply, maintaining the connection of the heels, ball of the foot, toes on each foot with the mat/ground below. Continue to engage the leg muscles and relax the shoulders. Complete 4-8 cycles of breath in Tadasana.
An alternative method is to stand in tadasana and with each inhale to lift the arms up in front of the body, palms facing up. As you exhale, turn the palms over and gently release the hands/arms back down beside your body (imagine your hands are paintbrushes painting the air with up and down strokes).
Benefits: Strengthens leg muscles, improves balance, and relieves sciatica. Creates space for deep breathing as the whole body is lengthened and the abdomen, ribs and chest can completely expand and release.
Tips: Avoid tadasana if you have low blood pressure or headaches. Try sitting on the edge of a chair or your bed and lengthen up from the hips to the crown of the head and practice the breathing exercises as described above.
Start in Downward Dog. As you inhale step the left foot forward between the hands. If stepping from Downward Dog is uncomfortable, an alternative position is to start from a table top. In either position use the hands to help move your front foot into position if needed. With the hands on the floor, body folded over the front leg, release the back knee to the floor and uncurl the toes. Activate the muscles of both legs and press up through your fingers. Engage your core and slowly lift the body up, gently lunging forward.
If your front knee lunges past the ankle joint, return your hands to the floor and slowly slide your front foot further forward. This protects the knee joint. Bring the hands together into pray position in front of the heart or extend the arms up beside the ears. Reach the fingers to the sky, while relaxing through the shoulders and neck. Gently tuck the bottom under and lift the pelvic bone up slightly, engaging your core and bringing your hips square. Breath deeply.
To move out of the posture exhale, bringing your hands back to the mat either side of your front foot. Tuck the toes of the back foot and lift the hips up stepping back into Downward Dog. Alternatively, take the hands to the inside of the front foot and gently wriggle the foot free to the side, swinging the leg back around into table or Downward Dog. Repeat on the opposite side.
Benefits: Improves balance, stretches the quads and opens the hips. Strengthens the core. Improves sciatica.
Tips: For knee injuries, place a folded towel/blanket beneath the knee/top of the shin. Avoid this posture if you have heart problems.
Find a comfortable and quiet spot to spread out your mat. Allow your feet to relax out to the sides. Arms out to the sides of the body with the palms facing up. Eyes gently closed. Breath gently feeling the abdomen rise with the inhale. As you exhale, allow your muscles, ligaments, bones, and every part of your body to slowly relax. Take your awareness through your body reconnecting with yourself, paying attention to how you feel. Try to stay here for 5-10 minutes, focusing on your breathing if your mind starts to wander (you can set a gentle/soft alarm to alert you when the time is up if you would like to).
Benefits: Slows the breath, calming the mind and body. Helps to bring balance to the mind, body and soul. Great for those with anxiety or depression.
Tip: Practice Savasana in bed before going to sleep at night.