Updated: Sep 23, 2020
"Jade, my balance is rubbish - I'm wobbling all over" is probably one of the most common things I hear after class when I chat with everyone.
Balancing is a tricky skill - it takes a lot of practice, repetition and patience. The good news is that with practice and time, balance can be improved!
Here's my top tips:
IT STARTS WITH YOUR FEET
Your feet are your foundation of all standing balance poses. So it makes sense to start here!
As a population, we often have very under-developed foot muscles. We wear tight fitting shoes which push our toes together. This means our foot muscles don't develop or switch on, and our inner and outer arches collapse.
This means when we come to class and try to stand on one leg our foot isn't active, leg muscles don't switch on... and we wobble and find it hard to balance.
Essentially, we've lost the ability to activate our feet and access the stability that having active feet gives us.
Activating your feet
Make sure the feet are planted firmly - lift all the toes, spread 'em wide, drop 'em down. One... by one.
Press down through the knuckle behind the big toe, baby toe and back of the heel.
Sounds mad (but trust me here!) - press your foot into the mat a bit like you were trying to balance on something slippy.
Engage your thighs & squeeze your bum! Engaged = holding its weight = Easier to lift & balance.
Sounds a bit of a strange thing to do, but bear with me!
Get yourself a tennis ball.
Place the tennis ball under your foot (both standing and seated)
Roll the tennis ball up and down the length of your feet, working from the back of the heel up to the baby toe, then down from 4th toe to heel and so on across your feet.
Repeat on the other foot.
Progress to a smaller, harder ball with time.
What does this do?
This starts to release into the web of fascia across our body. Fascia is everywhere, and it is a thicker connective tissue. It runs underneath the skin, around each bundle of muscle, inbetween the muscle bundles. Fascia can also be"sticky". The surface of the Fascia adheres to muscle (it's why when you see an animal wake up/get up from a long time seated - they always stretch!). This can give the illusion of tightness/weakness in the muscles - when actually, the fascia needs to be released, which allows the muscles to function as they should.
Releasing into our feet means we have less tension, and are able to activate our feet a bit easier, and can also release into our hamstrings - which matters because tight hamstrings in our standing leg can make it harder to activate through the leg and foot.
TIPS & TRICKS FOR IMPROVING BALANCE
Slowly slowly, catchy monkey
Rest your toes on the floor first! E.g. toes resting on mat, foot on ankle for tree pose or tiptoes resting on mat for standing head to knee.
Hold for 5-10 breaths.
This allows you to start building a strong foundation, neural pathways and muscle memory as well as stability through your standing leg.
Got that nailed? Up the ante....
Upping the ante
Repeat the same exercise and close your eyes!
Removing visual stimulus = harder. Closing your eyes removes visual cues and the self-steering aspect of your body correcting you without you knowing. This offers you the chance to become more aware of what is actually going on in your standing leg and where you need to anchor more firmly to keep the leg engaged and active.
Hold for 5-10 breaths.
Rinse & Repeat
Once you've got that nailed...
You progress the excercise - lifting the foot or leg higher to make things more challenging.
Then close the eyes again.
Then moving from one balance into another....
Then moving the gaze in a balance...
Engage your core - belly in!
Don't worry if you have it one day, feel strong as heck - and the next day you're wobbling all over like one of those wavy things at a car dealers. It's okay! It's sometimes our body's way of saying "HEY - something isn't right!", whether you've been pushing a bit much, you are hungry or tired... Just know it is okay. We all have days like it.
Let me know how you get on!