How to Improve your Balance
Linda from facebook wants to know, “Why do I have difficulty balancing in yoga?”
I get so many questions on balance and yoga I can’t even tell you! The reasons for difficulty in balance in yoga could be one of three things or a combination of all three.
First of all, what is balance? Balance is your ability to maintain your body’s center of mass over its base of support. Put more simply it is your competency to not fall over.
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.
So let’s train your vestibular system right now. 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. Now 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.
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.
Let’s try and load our proprioceptive system now. If you have shoes on, take them off so you can have maximum input from your feet through the ground. Now lift one knee off the ground in front of you. Lean forward and back and notice how your nervous system and brain responds to this proprioceptive input from the ground, your joints, muscles and position in space. If you want to make it even more challenging, close your eyes.
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.
You can test this out right now too. Stand on one leg and focus on something that is not moving. Now close your eyes and notice that without the visual input balancing is more difficult.
One of the most popular videos in our membership community at the moment is our brain yoga for standing balancing postures. This class includes postures that stimulate your vestibular, proprioceptive and visual systems to help you with your standing balancing postures in yoga.
“Hi Melissa, I’ve done this class at least eight times and it’s made a big difference in my balancing poses. The most dramatic changes took place within the first six times I did the video. Before starting this brain yoga class whenever I tried to do half moon balancing pose my balancing arm was so shaky I couldn’t even do a fair approximation of the pose. I’m still not doing the “full expression” and perhaps never will, but the improvement has been tremendous. I definitely feel like my balance has improved off the mat, as well.”
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