If you've ever slipped, tripped, or tried to stand on one leg, you know the importance of balance. Without equilibrium when you're standing up, you're more likely to wobble and fall, injuring your body and probably your ego, too. Sports like surfing, snowboarding, and ice hockey require upright balance, but so do everyday activities, like walking, showering, and carrying the groceries. Standing balance postures in yoga can help! With practice, you will gain (or re-gain) the inner and outer strength necessary to stand tall and remain strong, stable, and centered in all areas of your life.
Benefits of Standing Balance Poses in Yoga
Having a good sense of balance means more than being able to stand on one foot. While that physical feat is impressive, true balance in yoga means physical, mental, and emotional stability. Finding your center and being able to remain steady while balancing will improve your focus, relieve stress, and help you to deal with difficult situations. You'll learn to approach life with calm awareness, which is the heart of yoga.
Holding the poses can be difficult at first, but they’ll get easier with practice. The three most important things to remember are to breathe gently, focus your gaze, and relax your thoughts.
Tips for Standing Balance Poses in Yoga
Staying calm, focused, and centered while holding a yoga pose takes practice! With dedication and patience, though, you will be able to remain steady for long periods of time. Keep the following information in mind whenever you need help balancing:
- Take your time. It's easier to come into a balancing pose slowly and with awareness. If you enter the pose too quickly, you're more likely to lose your balance — and it's much harder to re-gain your balance, once it's been lost.
- Bring your awareness to the center line of your body (the vertical line that runs directly through the center of your head, neck, and torso).
- If it's difficult to balance with your feet together, stand with your feet hip-distance apart or even wider. Gradually step your feet closer together as you gain balance in the pose.
- If you're still having trouble balancing, try practicing the poses with your back against a wall, or with a wall or chair to the side of your body.
- Work the poses from the ground up. Align your feet first, then your legs, torso, and arms. Finally, extend the pose through the crown of your head.
- Remember: Breathe softly, maintain a steady gaze, and keep a relaxed mind.
Physical balance in the human body is a complex interaction between the sense of touch, the workings of the inner ear, and proper vision! All three must work together to correctly signal "balance" to the central nervous system.
Due to the balancing nature of the postures, do not practice this sequence if you are currently experiencing headaches, insomnia, low blood pressure, or if you are lightheaded and/or dizzy. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. Be sure to check with your doctor before practicing yoga if you have any injuries, health issues, or concerns.
This sequence outlined below is designed to help increase physical and mental balance, strength, and serenity. It includes foundational poses that will help you learn the basics of alignment, posture, and body awareness. Practice this sequence a few times a week. It should take about 10 minutes to complete all of the poses. Take it slowly, keep your breath smooth and even, and never force yourself into a pose. Keep the exact order of this sequence, as it has been organized to bring you the most benefits.
It might look like you’re just standing there, but Mountain Pose — Tadasana (tah-DAHS-uh-nuh) — is an active pose that helps improve balance, posture, and calm focus.
- Stand with your feet together and your arms at your sides. Press your weight evenly across the balls and the arches of your feet. Breathe steadily and rhythmically. If balancing is difficult, step your feet six inches apart (or wider).
- Straighten your legs, draw down through your heels, and ground your feet firmly into the earth. Draw the top of your thighs up and back.
- Tuck your tailbone slightly, but don’t round your lower back. Elongate through your torso. Release your shoulder blades away from your head toward the back of your waist.
- Broaden across your collarbones, but keep your shoulders in line with the sides of your body.
- Firm your shoulder blades toward the back ribs, but don’t squeeze them together. Keep your arms straight, fingers extending down, and your triceps firm.
- Elongate your neck. Keep your breath smooth and even. Gaze gently at the horizon. Hold for up to one minute, then relax your body.
2. Chair Pose
Chair Pose — Utkatasana (OOT-kuh-TAHS-uh-nuh) — is a standing yoga posture that tones the entire body, particularly the thighs! It improves balance and posture, while also building heat in the body.
- Begin in Mountain Pose. Stand with your feet together and your big toes touching. If that is too difficult, step your feet hip-distance apart.
- Inhale and raise your arms above your head, perpendicular to the floor.
- Exhale and bend your knees, bringing your thighs as parallel to the floor as they can get. Your knees will project out slightly over your feet, and your torso will form an approximate right angle over your thighs. Shift your weight into your heels.
- Tilt your head back slightly and gaze at a point between your hands.
- Hold for up to one minute. Then, inhale and straighten your legs, lifting through your arms. Exhale and release back to Mountain Pose.
3. Pyramid Pose
Also known as "Intense Side Stretch," Pyramid Pose — Parsvottanasana (PARZH-voh-tahn-AHS-uh-nuh) — stretches the spine, shoulders, hips, and hamstrings. It improves balance and posture, and calms the mind.
- Begin in Mountain Pose. Turn to the left and step your feet two to three feet apart. Place your hands on your hips. Align your heels. Turn your right (front) foot 90 degrees, so its toes point to the top of the mat. Turn your left (back) foot’s toes toward the top of the mat, about 60 degrees. Then, turn to face the same direction as your front foot.
- Draw your left hip slightly forward, squaring your hips to the top of the mat.
- Reach your arms out to the sides, then bring them behind your back and clasp your elbows. You can also bring your hands into reverse prayer position behind your back, pressing your palms together and reaching your fingers toward your head.
- Inhaling, elongate your torso. Exhaling, fold at the hips and extend your torso over your front leg. Maintain the length of your spine. Keep the crown of your head extending forward and your tailbone reaching behind you.
- Ground down through the heel of your back foot. Gaze at your front foot’s big toe.
- Hold for up to one minute. To release, press firmly through your back heel and slowly lift your torso. Release your arms and place your hands on your hips. Change the position of your feet and repeat on the opposite side.
4. Tree Pose
A popular balancing pose, Tree Pose — Vrksasana (vrik-SHAH-suh-nuh) — stretches the hips, thighs, torso, and shoulders. It builds strength in the ankles and calves, and helps remedy flat feet.
- Begin in Mountain Pose. Shift your weight to your left foot. Bend your right knee, then reach down and clasp your right ankle. Use your hand to draw your right foot alongside your inner left thigh. Do not rest your foot against your knee, only above or below it. If balance is difficult, place the sole of your right foot along your left inner ankle, and rest your toes on the floor.
- Bring your hands to your hips and lengthen your tailbone toward the floor. Press your right foot into your left thigh.
- Keep your hands resting gently on your hips. For a greater challenge, extend your arms above your head and reach your fingertips towards the sky. Turn your head up to gaze between your hands.
- Hold for up to one minute. Step your feet together again, and then repeat on the opposite side.
Discover Stable Ground
Standing balance poses might be difficult at first, but over time, your sense of coordination will improve. Regular practice will improve your focus and your ability to remain calm and centered. As you gain steadiness in the poses, you will gain balance in all areas of your life, even off the mat!