As I’m guided through Virksasana (Tree Pose), my breath catches. Noticing this sudden change I think of soap. Yes, soap. Soap is one of those things that if you grip, it will pop right out of your hands. In order to hold it the soap needs to rest gently in your palm. Balance is much like soap, when you grip it will jump away, but hold it gently and it will settle. Here I offer some of the insight I’ve gained on balance from my practice of yoga and dance.
How you talk to yourself is important.
Balancing is an excellent example of the mind body connection. Calm your mind as you attempt your balance. Phrases like ” uh oh I’m falling!” Won’t be helpful. Try ” Steady, Easy…” and then attempt to clear your mind of all thought, focussing on the sensations throughout the body, especially your centre. Oh, and remember to giggle when you fall then go back and re-centre.
Sink in and Lift out.
Sink into an easy energy without trying too hard. The more you relax the easier it is to find your centre.
That being said, don’t let your alignment go with your sinking in. Continue to stack your bones, particularly your vertebrae, while keeping breath in the muscles.
Balance is a structural composure that takes time for the body to learn. Keep working at it and you’ll find that feeling of inner calm. Muscles such as ham strings glutes and abdominals will come to the rescue; be sure to engage rather than squeeze.
Think of the tree that grows steadily and slowly without the action ever really being witnessed. The action happens within as the layers form one over the other, cellular generation working to spread at the molecular level.
Where are your feet?
In Andrew’s class recently, we did an exercise that involved standing on the block. He quipped that he loved watching our feet do all the tiny adjustments as our one footed endeavour played out.
The wiggles we experience when we’re balancing are the mandibles (those bones that run the length of the foot) and the phalanges (your toes) adjusting and readjusting to distribute weight on one foot.
There are 19 muscles in your foot helping to stabilize this process, and you, in balance. The plantar fascia creates the structure of your arch on the inner part of the foot that helps the stability between the ball of your foot and your heel. (Wefixfeet.com, “basic anatomy of the foot”)
Toes are lovely for grabbing things, like stinky socks for the laundry! However in balance, counterintuitively for some; it is really important to let them stretch. (Picture the feet of one of those beautiful little tree frogs)
This will increase control of the wiggles and spread your balance more throughout the foot.
Want to improve your balance?
Outside of yoga class try just standing on two feet and feel how you naturally sway from one side to another. Now, close your eyes. Open them and try the same on one foot. There’s a noticeable difference when closing your eyes.
Having something to focus the eyes on gives your brain cues that help to steady the whole body. This exercise will come in handy the next time you’re in tree pose or half moon. I love taking in the grain of the beautiful wooden floor as I focus.
As we begin to learn the practice of balance in yoga we are taught how to make tiny adjustments in our mind throughout the day. These minuscule changes help to maintain a centred mind; ultimately leading to a sense of calm and peace.