Balancing Act: Tips for Creating Equilibrium on Your Mat

  • Megan McInturff
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Do you ever feel the need to yell “timber” in Tree Pose because your roots aren’t sturdy? What about fearing you are going to start a domino effect because you are pretty close to tipping over in King Dancer pose? Me too! We were given two feet to stand on, so figuring out how to stand on one foot for an extended period of time can be challenging. Especially when your balance isn’t the only thing you have to think about in a yoga pose. Next time you find yourself wobbling, try these tips:

1. Find a Drishti. Drishti is a Sanskrit word meaning “focused gaze”. A drishti is used to steady the mind during meditation to keep awareness inward. It is also used to rest our gaze during balancing postures. Have you ever noticed if you turn to look at something, your entire body may turn too? These shifts can happen on a much smaller scale while in a yoga pose. A slight wandering of the eyes can cause subtle shifts of the body, throwing your whole center of balance out of whack. So focus your eyes on your drishti. Look for something that is not moving. If you’re balancing in an upright posture, allow your drishti to be eye level or higher.

2. Ground down evenly through your base. It is very common to roll onto the outer edge of your standing foot. If you tend to do this, make sure you apply more pressure into the base of your big toe and the inner edge of your heel. Find the areas on the sole of the foot that have light pressure and ground down into those areas. Create an even pressure across the sole of the entire foot. Also, try to widen the sole of your foot to broaden your base, giving you a sturdier stance.

3. Engage your core. Yes, you balance on your feet. So what does that have to do with your core? Well, your legs are connected to your core. So if the core is stable, it will help the hips, knees and ankles to be more stable too. Have you tried to find your balance in headstand or handstand? The core is where it’s at! Lock in on your core and everything else falls into place.

4. Balance from the top. I learned this as a kid and will never forget how much it helped me. Funny thing is though, this tip wasn’t originally given to me when I was standing in a balancing yoga pose. I heard this when I was trying to vertically balance a long stick in the palm of my hand, typical kid stuff. I kept looking at the base of the stick and the palm of my hand. I was struggling until someone said to me “balance the stick from the top.” I took my gaze up and voila! I could balance the stick like a pro. I took this helpful tip to my yoga practice and started to focus on the top of my body, no matter what balancing pose I’m in. Try to reach up through your head and instead of constantly focusing on your feet. If you need to find stability in a pose where your head isn’t the highest point, balance from the highest point. For example, if you are in Half Moon or Revolved Half Moon, continuously reach up through your top hand. You may find your voila moment!

5. Breathe and chill. Just remember to breathe. Deep breathing keeps you grounded and relaxed. Holding your breath will likely cause you to tense up and become rigid. When trying to steady ourselves in balancing poses, there needs to be a balance between effort and ease. If you notice the tension creeping in, take a slow breath in and a slow breath out. Breathing will internally and externally help you to chill. 

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