Gruninger: Balance – Prevent Falls & Injury

Los Alamos

BALANCE – it’s such a big word and relates to so many parts of our lives. Don’t you try to balance your work-life; your budget, time with friends and family, community service and hobbies?

It’s good to know that by practicing balance on your yoga mat, you not only enhance your ability to physically balance, but also will find better mental, emotional and spiritual balance off your mat.

Balance often equals control and who doesn’t want more control in their lives? When we first learn to walk, the more balance we have the easier it is to move. The same is true as we age. In addition, better balance helps us to prevent falls.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that falls are more common among those who are 65 plus. Falls are considered a public health concern as they lead to injury and injury death.

However, falls ARE NOT a normal part of aging, although our sense of balance can shift as we age. This is often due to medications or medical conditions.

Balance involves increasing our sense of awareness or proprioception – where our body is in space. Luckily, we can improve and challenge our balance.

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The goal is to practice balance daily, either with support or not, depending on your comfort level.

It is also important to do so with non-judgemental awareness – don’t let your internal board of directors shame, blame or criticize you as you practice.

Keep an open mind, “let’s see what I am capable of today.” Even if you wobble or fall out of a pose you are still enhancing your body, mind and vestibular system’s sense of balance.

Here are some suggestions for playing with balance:

  • First, practice balancing on two feet in Mountain Pose. Once you are settled and standing tall (abdominal wall drawn in slightly), lean/sway forward toward the balls of your feet and your toes. Pause for a few breaths. Return to center. Now, lean slightly back, weight moving into your heels. Pause for a few breaths. Come back to the center. Lean to the right, pause, return to center. Lean to the left, pause, return to center. Keep your body like a board through the entire practice. When you are finished, shake the body out and relax.
  • Practice a variety of poses rather than the same poses all the time – challenge yourself. If you don’t challenge yourself, you won’t see improvement in your balance. One day try Tree Posture. Stand tall in Mountain Pose, bring your right big toe to the floor, turn the knee out to the right and slide the foot to your ankle or your calf. The next day practice Crane Pose – Stand tall in Mountain Pose, raise your arms out to the side at shoulder height, send your weight into your left foot and raise your right knee to hip height or lower. Balance and breathe.
  • Balance not only on your feet, but also on hands and knees. Give Birddog a try. Come to all fours (table position). Hug your belly in and take your right leg back behind you, toes to the floor. Walk your left fingers forward arm straight. You might stay here or lift your arm and leg to hip/shoulder height reaching in opposite directions. To add more balance work, round your spine (like a cat) and draw your elbow to your knee and then out again.
  • Start crawling. Yes, just like that toddler learning to move, crawling is an excellent form of balance work. Start on all fours with your head looking at the horizon and get moving. Go backwards and forwards you can even play with going sideways.
  • Be mindful while you practice. No matter what pose you are practicing, do so mindfully. Notice sensations inside and outside the body as you practice. As you develop your sense of interoception (feeling from the inside) you will begin to be aware of the subtle shifts and micromovements that help you to find balance.
    Develop your proprioception (where you are in space) by paying attention to the position of your arms, legs and head while in different postures or even while you are walking, running or hiking.
  • Practice with your eyes closed. Our eyes give us most of our sensory information. When you take the eyes out of the equation it changes our sense of balance.Try (safely) practicing your poses with your eyes closed. You might start with non-balancing poses when you do this.
  • Practice off your yoga mat. Try practicing your regular and balancing poses in a park, at the beach, on a mountain side. You can also practice in a loud environment or where there is a lot of activity. Try moving your arms or head while you practice. All these “distractions” will create a different sense of balance in the body.
  • Of course, there are also lots of fun “toys” out there to enhance your balance.

Personally I enjoy the Bosu, balance pods and balance balls. I also like putting string on the ground and “tightrope” walking.

Whatever you choose to do, just get started. It’s never too late to find better balance.

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Jacci Gruninger is a Certified Yoga Therapist, Thai Yoga Massage Therapist, Focusing Coach and Facilitated Stretch Practitioner. She regularly helps clients manage the ups and downs of life with yoga, meditation, breathwork, focusing, stretching and bodywork. Her Wellness Center is located at 190 Central Park Square #212. For her current in person and online teaching schedule and information on her other services, visit her website at

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