During class I often hear, “I don’t have very good balance.” Not only that, but I see and sense the frustration and embarrassment, of many of my students, as we move through the balancing series of each class. I understand how discouraging this can be. However, I would like to challenge all of us, myself included, to have some fun with falling. After all, if we never fall it is much harder to improve.
- Poor balance leads to health problems.
Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death and the third leading cause of poor health among persons aged 65 years and older. As we age, our bones become weaker and the healing and recovery process takes longer. Continuing to move is vital to our health because moving is medicine. Being able to maintain your ability to balance is key in being able to move in a functional, healthy way. The only way to maintain this is by regularly challenging our balance.
- When we practice falling, it helps to improve our balance.
Balance is controlled by three systems: vestibular, somatosensory and visual. These three systems interact to keep the center of gravity over our base of support and to keep us upright. Not only does challenging balance work these three systems, but it also helps to improve the neuromuscular connections so we can react quicker. Additionally, it challenges our muscles making us stronger.
- Practice falling, it keeps things interesting and fun.
Yoga would become very boring if every time you stepped onto your yoga mat you were able to nail every movement and pose in the same exact way. Challenging yourself! It’s much more fun and enables you to improve.
- Our balance changes every day.
Sleep, diet, stress and fatigue all have an effect on balance. Some days you might require more support on your mat and the next day you might hit every pose. Remember, the goal is not about the perfect pose or doing a movement in the same way every time. Noticing how our body is moving, in the moment, is perfection. Some days you will consistently fall and in those moments laughing, at yourself, is usually the best reaction.
- Balance is a reflection of how you react in life.
We have very little control over most things in life. In fact, it’s easy to lose our balance daily; whether it is at work or at home. But once we let go of trying to control all of the uncontrollable factors, we can put our energy towards those things that we actually can control. Yoga teaches us that the one thing we can control is how we react. If we react with tension, when we lose our balance and fall, we are more likely to hurt ourselves. In contrast, if we can stay open and relaxed we are more likely to fall softly.
So ask yourself, do you want to react in life with resistance, force, and stiffness? Or, do you want to react with ease and grace, and maybe even a little humor? Practice Falling. Think how much you can learn about yourself and others.