Find your balance

This month’s column is all about finding your balance; similar to learning to ride a bike, it’s all about practice, and the results can be wonderfully rewarding, writes Joëlle Sleebos.

The following three poses are intense balance poses. As with learning how to ride your bike, you probably won’t get them straight away – the only thing you will need to do is practice, practice, practice.

While practicing these poses, and going deeper in to the poses, I would like you to try to move away from a balanced position of the body, toward an unbalanced position of the body.  In the unbalance, try to control the body, mind and breathing in order to find balance. Once you have found balance, move away from the balanced position again and so on. Try to do this slowly and stay connected with your breathing.

Some tips for balance while trying these poses:

Focus

In order to balance you will need to focus fully on the task at hand and drop any extraneous thoughts. Try to concentrate on a fixed point on the floor or wall in front of you. You will notice that as soon as you lose focus, you tend to lose your balance.

Breathe

As soon as you are holding your breath, or not focusing on keeping your breathing slow and controlled, it will be harder to focus and keep the body and mind in control, so breathe!

Activation of muscles

Activate as many muscles as you can, particularly your core muscles (which should be nice and strong after all the core exercises from the last 2 months).

Move slowly

Finding your balance is challenging and can be frustrating. Try to move slowly from one option to the next (more difficult) option.

Why we do these poses?

Despite the frustration, these poses have many benefits, which is why it is well worth the trouble to practice them. In addition to promoting concentration and calmness of the mind, these poses strengthen our muscles and build our coordination and balance, improving ways of standing and walking, as well as how we perform many other everyday activities. Also, these benefits might help to prolong our lives, lessening the chance of falls that often lead to injuries and death, especially among the elderly.

You might also feel a difference between the right and the left side. We tend to have a natural stronger side and a weaker side. Always do the same options on both sides, even if you might be able to do a more difficult option on your strong side compared to your weaker side. You will see that the more you practice these poses, the less noticeable the difference between the sides will become.

These balance poses do not have to be done in a specific order and they can be quite intense. Just try them one by one.

 Warm-Up (find the warm up in previous yoga columns)

If you do not have a lot of time, please do the Sun Salutation A before trying these balance poses, or if you have more time do Sun Salutation A and the four core exercises as a warm-up.

Tree PoseTree Pose    

  • Start by standing upright with your arms at your sides and your feet together.
  • Hands in prayer in front of your heart.
  • Find balance on left foot.
  • Place sole of the right foot against the side of the left ankle, toes pointing straight down.
  • Place sole of the right foot against the side of the left calf, toes pointing straight down.
  • Place sole of the right foot against the inside of the left tight, toes pointing straight down.
  • Lift hand above your head and look at your thumbs.
  • Close your eyes and hold tree pose.

Repeat on the other side

Dancer’s Pose    Dancers Pose

  • Start by standing upright with your arms at your sides and your feet together.
  • Hands in prayer in front of your heart.
  • Find balance on left foot.
  • Lift left arm, turn right palm open (thumb points up).
  • Grab the inside of the right foot with your right hand. Thumb stays pointing up, right shoulder is ‘open’ (externally rotated), you hold on the ‘big-toe-side’ of the right foot.
  • Reach very actively with your left hand; kick your right foot into the right hand.
  • Deepen the Dancer’s Pose by reaching forward even more and kicking even harder.

Repeat on the other side    

Malasana PoseCrow Pose           

  • Start in Malasana. Your heels should be on the floor and your knees next to your triceps.

*Malasana is a challenging pose by itself as flexibility of the hips is required. You can also squat a little higher and place the knees on the back of the triceps instead of to the side if that is easier for you.

  • Place hands shoulder-width apart on the floor. Spread your fingers as much as possible and feel the whole palm and back of the fingers touching the floor and start to move the weight of the body toward the hand.
  • Look forward!! All the weight is in your hands and lift one toe.
  • Lift the other toe and hold the Crow Pose as long as you want.

Crow Pose

How-To-Guide

To view visual the how-to-guide to completing these three poses visit www.fullsus.co.za/category/yoga/

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