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Why Practice Balance Poses?
The most dramatic experience I ever had with my balance failing me was about 8 years ago. Swine flu was going around that year and got me, making me very, very sick. And while I felt awful and had all sorts of unfortunate symptoms, the one that stuck with me the most was my compete loss of balance. I remember trying to get up from my bed to go to the bathroom and immediately collapsing into a heap on the floor. It would be funny if it weren’t so scary. It is a rather peculiar feeling when you try really, really hard but are definitively unable to remain upright. And the stairs were positively terrifying. It took me three days to begin to regain my sense of balance and when I did it was a great relief.
It was a pretty scary experience, and I often hear an echo of those fears when my older clients tell me that one of their priorities is to “work on balance”. It only takes one fall to become acutely aware of how elusive the sense of balance can be and how tragic the consequences of losing it. The CDC estimates that one out of three older people (65+) falls each year, but less than half tell their doctor. Falling once doubles your chances of falling again. Falling can lead to serious injury, but even if you are lucky and don’t get hurt, it certainly affects your self-confidence.
It’s not all doom-and-gloom, of course – the sense of balance can and should be trained. The question is – how do we do it, since it is such a complex process involving many bodily systems?
Why Developing Balance is Important
First things first – why do we care about developing our sense of balance? Obviously, we want to prevent falls, but there are many other things we can accomplish by learning how to balance.
We train our balance to:
Increase strength and stability
Improve overall structural integration (different parts of the body working together for the common goal)
Improve neuromuscular connection (communication between the muscles and the brain)
Develop mental stability
Improve our ability to focus
Bring about a sense of accomplishment
Balancing Yoga Poses: How the Body Works
Here is how the actual process of balancing works.
Sensory systems figure out where the body is in space (chart below
The brain processes the information and sends the signal to the muscles and joints on how to adjust their activity. Brain needs to process this information quickly. In some neurological disorders this process fails, which leads to balance problems.
Muscles and joints receive this information and make necessary modifications. Muscles and joints need to be able to complete the assigned task, which requires a delicate dance between stability and flexibility.
The balancing reflex becomes quicker and more refined with practice.
Study with YogaUOnline and Baxter Bell, MD: Yoga for Core Integrity and Balance.
Practice Yoga Balance Poses at the Wall - more from YogaUOnline and Stephanie Pappas.
Educated as a school teacher, Olga Kabel has been teaching yoga for over 14 years. She completed multiple Yoga Teacher Training Programs, but discovered the strongest connection to the Krishnamacharya/ T.K.V. Desikachar lineage. She had studied with Gary Kraftsow and American Viniyoga Institute (2004-2006) and received her Viniyoga Teacher diploma in July 2006 becoming an AVI-certified Yoga Therapist in April 2011. Olga is a founder and managing director of Sequence Wiz- a web-based yoga sequence builder that assists yoga teachers and yoga therapists in creating and organizing yoga practices. It also features simple, informational articles on how to sequence yoga practices for maximum effectiveness. Olga strongly believes in the healing power of this ancient discipline on every level: physical, psychological, and spiritual. She strives to make yoga practices accessible to students of any age, physical ability and medical history specializing in helping her students relieve muscle aches and pains, manage stress and anxiety, and develop mental focus.