Do you remember spinning around in circles as a kid until you collapsed on the ground laughing? I watch my son do it regularly, priming and building his vestibular system. This mechanism is a gorgeous spiraling structure in your head composed of tiny hairs and fluid and delicate bones called otoliths whose function is vital to the beautiful concert of balance. Unless you’re moving your head and/or eyes, you’re not working on balance. Learning this was one of many total game-changers in my teaching.
Balance is a three-fold integrated system composed of vestibular function, vision and proprioception. It means that.....a familiar yoga pose such as tree or eagle or warrior three where your eyes stay fixated on a drishti, focal point, is only helping a portion of your balance system, namely proprioception. Proprioceptors are all sorts of nerves throughout your body which provide external orienting information such as pressure, temperature, pain, stretch- the environment at large. But balance. It’s more than that.
Screen time and chair sitting and energy saving devices- and shoes! all of the trappings of modern life, under-use these systems, so they get dusty. Pain and dysfunction follow. You know the story. Zoo animals. We used to roam free. Now we have to mitigate the effects of our times. Our health depends on it!
Also: one in three people over the age of 60 fall each year! Our balance and movement practice needs to apply/translate to every day life to improve these statistics. Most people fall while walking or doing normal life things, not tree pose. Tree pose is fun and pretty and perfectly lovely- but you need more. I believe balance to be the foundational skill/ability before other pursuits, foundational to mobility, strength and sport. Knowing this, I strive to help you improve balance in the best ways I know how. Lately that has meant various kinds of walking balance drills comprised of moving head and eyes in various patterns while walking. We’ve also been using the powerful Infinity Walk method, a figure eight pattern of movement to restore balance and symmetry. I strive to address all of the key players in the orchestra of balance. Think of the best concert you’ve ever been to, the tightness and care that goes into melding parts into one synthesized thing of beauty. This is your potential.
If we consider the SAID principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand) then how does our yoga (and exercise) translate to functional movement in every day life? From a neurological standpoint, we get better at the things we do most often, in the positions we’re practicing in.
What is your movement diet? If your balance has diminished, then chances are your movement (box) has grown smaller. Better balance will improve your mobility. Stop and digest that for a moment because it’s huge. To move well with the most amount of options, your brain needs literally to feel safe. To feel safe... better balance. Better visual-motor skills. Better sensory information and inner ear function. This.
What do you want from your body? What do you want from your yoga? You want to age gracefully with full physical capability, right? To get up and down from the ground and to garden, shovel, reach, squat, lift and perform life tasks with confidence, pain-free? To be resilient, fluid, graceful in your body? To be at home in your body? To walk with a spring in your step? To hike and bike and enjoy all of the adventures you adore? To be present and awake and grateful? Yes. All of this.
I want that for you too.