Maintaining our ability to balance is incredibly important, as balancing on one leg is an integral part of walking. Like so many other things in our bodies, our ability to balance diminishes with age. However it falls into the ‘use it or lose it’ rather than the ‘once it’s gone, it’s gone’ camp, so it is worth making balance practise a regular part of any physical conditioning programme, either to keep it or to get it back. And I know from my experience with many clients that it will come back if you keep working at it!
Balance is different from many other forms of exercise or movement practise, as we don’t improve by working harder. ‘Working harder’ can make us lock down and become rigid when trying to balance, instead we need to stay relaxed and fluid. Not so relaxed we are slumpy, of course, we need good alignment to switch on our deep support, but not tense and rigid. Rigidity makes balance more difficult, as the foot and the body needs to constantly make small micro-movements to adjust to the natural postural sway that is part of standing up. We are held up by the balance of tension in our soft tissues (muscles, tendons and ligaments), that are constantly adjusting to the forces created by gravity, ground reaction force and the movements of our bodies – even the subtle movement of breathing. These forces all contribute to postural sway. So we need to be lifted in good alignment, yet relaxed, to allow for easy balance that absorbs postural sway and any other movements that we make.
In this first video, we release the foot, make connections between the foot and the knee and the hip, then practise finding the lift that helps with relaxed balance. The key is to have a foot that feels connected to the ground – if you lose your balance, focus on increasing the awareness of your foot on the ground, while lengthening up through the crown of your head. The second video challenges our balance with a variety of movements. Only move on to the second video once you are able to easily do the balancing in the first video.
**For the first video you will need a spiky ball (or any kind of ball the size of a tennis ball or smaller) and something to hold onto, such as a chair or a wall**