Welcome to Movement Mondays, your weekly tip and tutorial to bring more movement, alignment and self-care into your everyday life. You can also find your weekly dose of movement love on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter. Just click on the links below!
For a happy, sustainable body, we need to move everyday and move in all sorts of different ways. And even if you are moving in a wide variety of ways, it can be easy in our modern lifestyle to overlook the importance of balance.
The ability to stand comfortably on one leg (or even two!) without falling over has far reaching benefits both to your body and mind. Many people think that as we age, not being able to balance is "normal". Yet it is more likely that we lose our balance easier as we age because we stop incorporating it into our daily lives. As I like to say, if you don't use it, you lose it.
Think for a moment what you do over the course of your average day. There aren't too many opportunities for you to play around with your balance unless you specifically go to a yoga class or incorporate balancing poses in a home practice. And yet, without this fundamental ability, our core strength weakens, our mind/body connection- the motor programs- start to shut down. We need to have a well honed sense of balance. Our proprioception is a major part of our brain's communication with the body, without it we become disconnected.
Not only does balance have important physical benefits along with the brain building ones, it is also a great opportunity to get uncomfortable. The discomfort of challenging oneself in a new situation, or a new way of moving is such a great opportunity for growth. I'm a big fan of getting uncomfortable and practicing balances for this reason. The practice of navigating balance in my physical body, gives me more strength and confidence to approach larger changes and uncomfortable situations in my life and heart.
Stand on a level surface with both feet on the ground, pelvis width apart. Close your eyes. Notice what is happening within your body. Do you feel little shifts and sways? The better your proprioception is, the less you will have those shifts and the more still you will be. This is a simple way to check in and see just how well honed your proprioception is, and therefore your balance.
Because our average modern day to day life doesn't provide us with many opportunities to balance; we aren't hopping across rocks over a stream, stepping over logs in the forest and so on, it is important to cultivate fun and playful ways to keep your balance strong everyday.
Here are some of the ways that I play with balance at home. In a class or workshop, I always incorporate balance in some form or another and I enjoy getting people out of their comfort zone by having them step onto something soft like a foam yoga block or bolster. We may be able to hold all sorts of balancing on a flat floor but what about when you have something soft beneath your feet? I love this for many reasons but mainly because it serves as a reminder that balance never stops, there is always another way to challenge ourselves. If balancing on a soft surface is easy for you, then try it with your eyes closed, or with something heavy in your hands. Or try balancing on one leg while catching a ball. The possibilities are endless and as long as you stay open to the challenge, your brain and your body will thank you... especially in the long term.
My favourite way to get some daily balance work in is when picking things up off the floor. I learned this from my mom, I've spent my childhood seeing her do this all the time and now of course I do it. I always make sure to switch up my legs and be mindful of keeping my pelvis over my heel for more structural stability.
Something really fun for the family is the one legged ball toss. Throw the ball to each other while standing on one leg, both for throwing and catching. Switch legs every so often to even things out. This is a blast and kids love it. I'm upping the ante here by standing on a wobbly log (that we have for balance playtime purposes!) and trying to catch the ball. Hello core, focus and balance!
You can always work on balancing on two feet with a heavy load... like with a kid on your shoulders! This is more of a playful example, please approach something like this with caution of course. You can see that you can find balance everywhere if you get creative and playful. Get uncomfortable, as balance has a lot to teach us and trust and confidence are two of the core teachings. And when you feel like you are "good" at balancing, then change it up for yourself. Make it harder by standing on uneven surfaces and so on. Enjoy, get playful and discover all the different ways you can incorporate balance into your daily movement life. See you next week!