4 Ways to Increase Your Balance: Part 4 November 8, 2011

So, how has it been going?  Have you been working Step 1: feet, Step 2: thighs, and Step 3: core?  If you’ve been putting in the time you may already notice a difference in your balance.  You’ve also proven that you’re willing to commit to a process.  Building balance requires a consistent effort, and a belief that your balance will improve.  Which brings us to step 4: the brain.

Our thoughts are powerful…..what we think usually becomes our truth.  So, if you keep thinking you can’t balance I almost guarantee that you won’t.  On the other hand if you believe balance comes easily….than eventually it will.  Why are the most simple concepts so hard to accept?  The next time you practice balance repeat to yourself; “I have great balance and it gets better each time I practice.”

One final tip for balance…..find your Drishti. This is the yoga term for gazing point.  Find something at eye-level, or even slightly above the eyes.  Look at the item and then slowly begin to let you focus drift past the item…..almost as if you where in a trance.  Soften the breath and face….. quite the brain.  Try to hold your balancing pose; such as Tree Pose for 1-3 full rounds of breath before coming out of the pose.  Exit the pose as mindful as you entered the pose.  This will help to cultivate a catalog of balance that will be easier, and easier to call upon when needed.

During the month of November I will share some poses that will let you put your efforts into action.  Keep working, keep believing, and it will all come together for you.


4 Ways To Increase Your Balance: Part 3 October 27, 2011

If you’ve been practicing Wall Sit from Part 2 of 4 Ways to Increase Your Balance I feel confident that you’ve found your thighs.  The burn means your waking up those muscles, and making them stronger.  Now let us take that energy to the core.  Building a strong core is the 3rd step for increasing your ability to balance.  A strong core will also help to minimize lower back pain.  Often when we think of building strength in the core we find ourselves on the floor performing those dreaded sit-ups…….it can be a challenge for most people to even get to the floor. So, grab a stable chair and we are going to work that tummy from a seated position.  Let’s get to work!


Core Exercise: Seated Crunch

Begin seated in your chair.  Move forward bringing your sitting bones to the edge of the chair.  The feet face forward, while the legs make a 90 degree angle by stacking knee over ankle.  Draw the bellybutton to the spine, as you move your shoulders over hips.  Feel your feet rooted deeply on the ground, and feel the muscles of the legs draw up on the bones.
Take a nice inhale as you raise your arms straight up towards the sky.  Interlace your fingers, and place the hands at the base of your skull where the head and neck meet.  Elbows are wide and out to the sides.  Allow the neck to feel long, while the shoulders melt away from the ears.
Take another nice inhale, and feel you ribs move away from your waist……feel a big stretch in the side-body.  As you exhale, draw the chin towards the heart, the belly towards the spine and the tailbone draws up……imagine it moving forward between the legs.  Inhale while moving back to the starting position.  If you want to increase  your awareness of lower body’s form you can place a yoga block, or small ball between the upper thighs. 
You’ve just completed a seated crunch.  Bring your energy into the core and feel yourself working, building strength. Repeat this action 10 times.  As you build strength try to perform 3-5 sets of 10.  Remember you’re building the blocks to better balance one step at a time.  Stay consistent, stay patient, and be supportive of yourself……..No Negative Thoughts!!!  Keep working, and stayed tuned for part 4!
To Read Part 1 Click Here
To Read Part 2 Click Here

4 Ways To Increase Your Balance: Part 2 October 22, 2011

Before we move to step 2……I must ask how are your feet?  Have you been working on that towel scrunch?  Remember building balance is much like building a home……you need to have a strong foundation to build upon.  As you continue to gain strength, as well as mobility in your feet you’ll find that performing balance will become more accessible with each attempt.  Let’s continue with our journey.

The next key to finding and maintaining balance is leg strength.  In our modern world of convenience we spend most of our time sitting.  Wether it be at home, at work, in the car, or any other mode of transportation….. we sit!  There are also escalators, elevators, and moving sidewalks that enable us to move from one space to the next without every taking a step.  As we as age, we use our muscles less and less.  The muscles begin to decrease in size and weaken.  Our lifestyle helps that process begin faster.  But once again, with awareness and effort we can take steps to improve our wellness. 

To improve your leg strength I will share with you an effective, yet simple exercise.  You’ll need a wall, and possibly a yoga block, or a ball.  A basketball, or soccer ball will work fine.  Let’s get to work!

Leg Exercise: Wall Sit

Before you begin this exercise make sure that you’re wearing clothes that give you comfort and mobility.  Come to a place on your wall where there are no obstacles that will hinder your efforts.  Begin by standing with your back towards the wall.  Allow your back body to make full contact with the wall.  Step one leg, and then the other leg a full leg distances from the wall.  Feet and toes are facing forward.  Your torso is full supported by the wall, while your legs are extended in front of you hips distance a part.

With awareness begin to bend your knees.  Your torso will begin to slide down the wall.  As you bend the knees ensure they are facing forward…..not rolling in or out.  An excellent way to bring awareness to the knees is to line them up with your second toe of each foot.  Also stack the knees above the ankles.  If there is any strain on the knees sit higher in the pose.  With your shoulders, upper and lower back firm against the wall attempt to curl your tailbone forward to lengthen the lower back.   Draw the belly to the spine to support the back even more.   Bring your hands to heart center with the palms sealed.

Once you have found stability in this pose try to hold it for 1-3 full rounds of breath……slow inhale of 4 counts, pause, slow exhale of 4 counts, pause, repeat.   Begin with 3-5 sets of Wall Sit.  As your strength improves begin to sit deeper trying to make a 90 degree angle with the legs……ankle and knee align, as well as the knee and hip.  Increase your sets, as well as rounds of breathe.  Maybe your rounds of breath count increase from 4 to 6.  If you want to challenge yourself more place a block, or ball between your thighs and squeeze your inner thighs towards one another while still being mindful of the feet and knees facing forward. 

Each time you come to your practice begin to bring awareness more to the breath and less to the energy you may be feeling in your lower body.  This is a grand opportunity to find grace in a place of discomfort.  If you practice Wall Sit on a consistent basis you will increase you lower body strength, which will move you one step closer to your overall goal of improved balance.

Keep up the good work and check back soon for Part 3! 


To Read Part 1 Click Here

4 Ways To Increase Your Balance: Part 1 October 14, 2011

The second most common reason I hear people say they can’t take part in a yoga class is…..”I can’t balance.”  My response….. that is the second most important reason why you should begin a yoga practice.  Our ability to balance peeks at the age of 25 years, and then slowly diminishes as we age.  Signs of losing balance may not appear until around the age of 40.  My mother always told me that things begin going down hill after 25…..I guess in some ways she is right. 
The good news is we can keep pushing our way up that hill with a little knowledge and practice.  It’s most important that we work towards keeping our balance.  Having balance can translate into better posture, improved sense of self, reduced risk of falling, and maintaining independence in our later stages of life.  Keys to improving balance requires attention on 4 parts of the body:  the feet, the thighs, the core (stomach muscles), and lastly the brain.  Espouse a true belief that your balance can improve.  If you keep thinking you have bad balance…..guess what?  You’ll keep having bad balance!  What we believe usually correlates with what we experience in our lives.  It’s time to change our thinking.
I will share with you some simple exercises during this month that you can begin now to help improve your  balance.  We’ll first begin with the feet.  You will need a towel; hand-size towel will work fine, and a stable chair. Let’s get to work!
Foot Exercise: Towel Scrunch
Begin seated in your chair.  Lay the towel out flat in front of you with the short edge of your towel facing your toes.  Move forward bringing your sitting bones to the edge of the chair.  The feet face forward, while the legs make a 90 degree angle by stacking knee over ankle.  Draw the bellybutton to the spine, as you move your shoulders over hips.
Pick up your right toes while the heel of the foot maintains contact with the floor.  Try to spread the toes.  Place them on the edge of the towel, and with your toes alone; heel of foot rooted, begin to scrunch/gather the towel towards you.  Repeat the action of extending the toes to gather the towel, and contracting the toes to pull the towel towards you. 
Once you have gathered all of the towel begin the opposite action of pushing the towel away with the toes alone.  While you are working with the foot try to maintain body awareness, and don’t forget to breathe.  Once it becomes more easy to perform this exercise increase your repetitions.  Gathering the towel towards you, then pushing the towel away from you is one set.  Eventually, work your way towards 3-5 sets with each foot. 
As you perform this exercise know, and believe that you’re working your way towards better balance.  This exercise can be done every evening while you’re watching your favorite shows.  Have fun with it.  Set a goal and challenge yourself.  Get your family involved……who can scrunch the towel the fastest?  Most importantly, remember that the smallest steps lead to the greatest results. 
Check back this month for more exercises to help you improve your balance. 
  To Read Part 2 Click Here