Categories: Train
Tags: fitness

4 essential yoga exercises to improve balance

December 25, 2018

In the practice of yoga, the term balance transcends just physical strength and stability. Balance creates emotional harmony, mental clarity and spiritual energy.

Postures that require balance ground you in breath and body, keep you rooted in the earth, focuses your attention on each moment, and challenges your center of gravity. In other words, balance is imperative for a mind-body-spirit connection.

“The sustained effort to center and recenter, when successful, brings not only the flesh and bones into balance, but also the nerve impulses, thoughts, emotions and consciousness… Equilibrium brings equanimity,” says Roger Cole, certified Iyengar Yoga teacher.

The outcome is a meditative state that leads to peace of mind.

Since the three main features of balance are alignment, strength and attention, Cole explains, mastery of this discipline requires sharp mental alertness and controlled physical form.

The outcome is a meditative state that leads to peace of mind­, both on the yoga mat and in life. Here are four accessible poses that all yogis — no matter your experience or fitness level — can practice to reinforce balance and enrich your well-being.

Eagle Pose (Garudasana)

  1. This posture starts by bending the knees, wrapping one thigh across the other, then hooking the non-planted foot around the opposite calf.
  2. Once the lower body is secured in this position, bend the arms, crossing one elbow into the crook of the other, and press both palms together.
  3. Adjust the spine until it’s perpendicular to the floor and the crown of your head is reaching toward the ceiling.
  4. To maintain this pose, you need intense concentration aimed at the upper and lower body joints and the core abdominal muscles.

Vinyasa instructor and editor of Yoga International, Kat Heagberg, suggests: “Focus on each piece of the pose and how all of the pieces fit together … to keep exploring what this pose has to offer and consistently meet it anew.”

This is “what soaring, as eagles (and garudas) do, is all about: rising to the occasion to view something from a larger vantage point — from a curious, possibility-laden perspective,” she adds.

Revolved Lunge (Parivretta Anjaneyasana)

  1. This posture is executed by pivoting into a deep lunge, with the forward knee bent, parallel to the ankle, and the back knee lowered almost to the yoga mat.
  2. Position the hands in a prayer stance with the elbows bent and twist at your care, allowing one elbow to rest on the lunged knee — the upper body should rotated sideways, remembering to twist from your core.

To maintain this pose, you need to contract both the hamstrings and quadriceps and activate your core strength to keep the entire body rooted, stable and upright.

The more you breathe into this twisted motion, the more you can “slow down and become mindful of your movements,” suggests Tiffany Russo, a SmartFLOW yoga instructor. As a result, you can also “become more interested in the process—how the body as a whole, including the mind, is affected by the changing shape — than the outcome of the final posture.”

Half Camel Pose (Ardha Ustrasana)

  1. This posture is executed by resting both knees on the yoga mat, placing them hip width apart.
  2. Press your hips forward and squeeze the buttocks and thighs
  3. Reach behind and clasp the back heel with your one hand and lift the opposite hand overhead, reaching towards the back wall. (Alternatively, you can keep both hands on your heels.)
  4. Keep your back strong as you arch the spine to expand your chest and shoulders, while elongating the neck.
  5. To maintain this pose, you need to keep your core muscles strong, allowing you to get the most from the backbend.

Known as “heart-openers” in yoga lexicon, all variations of the camel pose — including this one — are connected to the heart chakra (Anahata). This is the energy center where love manifests, so “when your heart chakra is open,” and a free-flow of energy is produced, you can “operate in every action and thought from a place of love,” suggests yoga instructor and DoYouYoga contributor, Jacqueline Buchanan. This promotes a holistic balance of emotions and vigor within the body.

Lowered Plank (Chaturanga Dandasana)

  1. This posture is executed by aligning both the upper and lower body in the plank position; if you’re unfamiliar, this is the pushup position—feet behind you, core parallel to the mat and hands on the ground, shoulder width apart.
  2. Tighten your core and quadriceps and bend the elbows close to the ribcage, lowering toward the floor.
  3. Keep your elbows tight to your body and keep your core tight to maintain that plank form.

In an article for Gaia.com, Vancouver-based yoga instructor Dr. Robin Armstrong describes the chataranga as an “excellent post to build awareness of the muscles that support and stabilize the shoulder blades.” She also continues that it evokes a “feeling of power, accessing inner strength, as well as building outer strength.” Both of these elements combine to unite and harmonize the mind and body.

Find Your Balance on the Mat

A deeper connection to balance elevates your precision and performance on the yoga mat, while teaching you to become conscious and present in other areas of your life, too. The more you integrate balance in a yoga practice, the more empowered you will be to access the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benefits that come along with it.