When your balance system is working well, you will be able to see clearly, move well, identify your orientation in relation to gravity, determine your direction and speed of movement and make postural adjustments to maintain your position and stability in various conditions and activities.
As you learned in Yoga with Melissa 354, your balance relies on your vision, your proprioception and your vestibular system. Your body takes in these signals from your vision, proprioception and vestibular system through nerve impulses through special nerve endings called sensory receptors and sends signals to your brain.
Through repetition of these sensory receptors to our brain stems and then their resultant path back out through our body, you form a new neural pathway called facilitation. With this synaptic reorganization you are able to come into balance during your activities. This kind of synaptic reorganization occurs throughout your live as you adjust to changing motion environs. The more repetition, the easier it becomes for your sensory receptors to travel their pathways to your brain and back through your body. The neural pathways become more easy to travel. This is great news because balance is something that we can practice and become better at with repetition.
Your ability or inability to balance is the result of three systems:
- Your vestibular system
- Your proprioceptive system
- Your visual system
Your Vestibular System
Your Vestibular System is your inner ear. Your inner ear sense information about motion, equilibrium and spatial orientation. This information is collected in your inner ear by the utricle, saccule and three semicircular canals.
Your utricle and saccule detect gravity, that is information in a linear orientation, as well as linear movement. Your semicircular canals detect rotational movement.
When you look up and down at the ground and the sky and you are stimulating your utricle and saccule to detect gravity, that is information in a linear orientation as well as linear movement. When you turn your head side to side and you are stimulating your semicircular canals, this is allowing your vestibular system to detect rotational movement. These simple movement patterns will stimulate your vestibular system and help to improve your balance.
As we age, we engage our vestibular system less and less. We mostly keep our body in an upright position. Gone are the days that we jump up and down on trampolines, do cartwheels, hang upside down on monkey bars, or do somersaults. All these movements focus on inversions, rapid changes in directions and enhance our vestibular systems.
Your Proprioceptive System
Proprioception is defined as the unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself. We receive proprioceptive input from our skin, muscles, joints and sensory receptors that are sensitive to movement and pressure in our connective tissue.
Proprioception is sensed by your entire nervous system. Inside each muscle and joint, you have tiny meters called muscle spindles and golgi tendons that are constantly measuring the amount of tension and degree of contraction that are happening. This information travels up your spinal cord through your spinocerebellar tract and makes its way to your cerebellum. Your cerebellum accepts information from your skin, muscles and joints throughout your whole body and calculates where your body should be in space.
We challenge our proprioceptive system all the time as yogis. When we take our socks and shoes off and practice in our bare foot, we experience maximum input through our feet from the ground. As we move around in different yoga postures our nervous system and brain responds to this proprioceptive input from the ground, your joints, muscles and position in space.
Your Visual System
You have sensory receptors in your retina called rods and cones. When light strikes the rods and cones of your retina, the rods and cones send impulses to your brain that provide visual cues that tell your brain how you are oriented relative to the objects around you.
“Poets have never used the word balance, for good reason. First of all, it is too obvious and therefore untrustworthy; it is also a deadly boring concept and seems to speak as much to being stuck and immovable, as much as to harmony. There is also the sense of unbalancing that must take place in order to push a person into a new and larger set of circumstances.” David Whyte
Today (and hopefully always) when we practice balance we are going to let go of being stuck and immovable. We are going to practice being unbalanced and opening ourselves to larger possibilities.
Yoga Postures/Asanas: Salabhasana or Locust Pose, Cat Pose or Marjaryasana, Gate Pose or Parighasana, Warrior One or Virabhadrasana One, Warrior Three or Virabhadrasana Three, Legs up the Wall or Viparita Karani, Ardha Matsyendrasana or Half Lord of the Fishes Pose, Paschimottanasana or Seated Forward Fold, Savasana or Corpse Pose
Props Required: Bolster and Yoga Mat
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
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What balancing poses do you find the most challenging and why? I am planning on doing a whole series on balance and I will include the yoga balancing poses that you find most challenging in this series if you leave them in the comments 🙂
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Today we focused on balance. Do you want the support of myself, our leadership team and a community as well as value added content you can do in our membership community this week to take your practice further? In our membership community we have a short brain yoga class for standing balancing postures:
One of the things people ask me for help with most often is standing balancing yoga postures. One of the first signs of brain deterioration is when your balance starts to go. As your brain is nourished, your body is developed. When you make the movements in this class you make a neural pathway for that movement. If you keep making that movement, you engrave that neural pathway for your brain. The more nerve connections you can make in your brain and your body the more your balance will improve. Try adding this yoga class into your regular rotation if you struggle with standing balancing postures and let me know if you notice an improvement.
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Weekly Yoga with Melissa #357 Photos of Yoga Pose