Balancing on one foot yoga poses include tree pose, eagle, half moon, and warrior 3.
For all of these one-legged-balancing poses you can first practice stabilizing your foot and ankle. You can then practice using your foot to feel your balance point. You can then work at keeping your balance point over your foot.
Balancing on one foot can be made easier if you focus on feeling our standing foot and the way your weight presses through it. You can learn to use your foot to feel when your weight shifts. You can then work at counteracting that shift.
To get ready for balacing on one foot first practice stabilizing your feet and ankles while standing on both feet.
The first part of activating your feet is allowing your shins to roll inwards. Do this while standing with your feet hip width and parallel and your knees slightly bent.
Rolling your shins inwards, your inner arches may collapse. Slowly roll your shins out so that your knees point straight ahead. Notice how your inner arches lift as you roll your shins out. Repeat this a few times getting used to the feeling. Next, as you roll your shins out press the outer edge of both feet into the floor. Relax the outer edges of your feet as you roll your shins in. Try not to lift the inner edges of your feet as you roll your shins out.
Next, as you roll your shins out press down through the outer edges of your feet and pull the base of your big toe back and down into the floor as you do so. Because of the shape of the arch of your foot you'll probably find it difficult to just press the base of your big toe down. Instead pull it back towards you heel and press it down at the same time. The feeling is like you are trying to grip the floor with your feet.
Finally, as you roll your shins out, focus on pullin up on the center of the outer edge of your arches. You'll feel a line of pull all the way up the side of the shins as you do so. Hold this foot action and notice how strong your foot, ankle and lower leg feel.
You can try to vary the tension in your feet so that you are using the smallest amount of tension necessary to shape and stabilize each foot. This will make it easier to feel with your feet as well as be able to use them to keep your self upright.
Next, with your feet and ankles active, practice shifting your weight backwards and forwards while standng on both feet.
shins rolled in
shins rolled out
|weight fwd||weight back|
In this balancing exercise practice shifting your center of gravity over the fronts of your feet and then over your heels. Stand with your feet about hip or shoulder width apart. Position your feet so that they are parallel. Activate your feet!
When balancing on the fronts of your feet position your center of gravity so that your weight presses down evenly through the fronts of your feet and your toes. You should be able to easily lift your heels off of the floor.
When balancing on your heels, you can keep your center over the fronts of your heels so that the fronts of your feet stay on the floor. You can also balance on the center of your heels so that the fronts of your feet lift off of the floor.
Practice rocking back and forwards with your breath. Inhale forwards and exhale back.
Once you have a feeling balancing on the fronts of your feet and then on your heels, try it with your eyes closed.
If you are really uncomfortable with rocking back and forwards with eyes closed, try it while standing in front of a wall, just close enough that it will catch you if you do lose your balance but far enough that you still have room to do the exercise.
Once you trust both yourself and your feet, try rocking back and forwards with eyes closed without the wall. And then do it with the same "feeling" or "sensitivity" but with your eyes open.
One you are used to balancing on the fronts or backs of both feet, it is time to practice balancing on one foot. This next exercise is very similiar to the two footed balance exercises except that instead of shifting from front to back you shift your weight from side to side.
So that you know when your weight is totally over your right foot, feel your left leg. When your weight is entirely positioned over your right foot you may notice that your left leg relaxes! When your weight is entirely on your left foot your right leg will be able to relax. Also notice the pressure on the inside and outside edges of your standing foot. It should be even. (Make sure that your foot is active!)
To test that you are balancing on one foot when you have shifted on to your right foot try and lift your left foot without moving the rest of your body. Then do the same thing when standing on your left foot, lift your right foot.
You can turn this into a breathing exercise. First activate your feet. Shift your weight forwards a little. Inhale on to your right foot, exhale lift your left leg. Inhale put your foot down. Exhale and stand on both feet. Repeat but this time shift on to your left foot.
Note that when I teach this alot of my students automatically shift their weight onto both feet as they put their foot down. See if you can keep your weight on your standing leg while touching your foot back down to the floor. Then move your weight on to both feet.
Work at doing all of these actions slowly and smoothly.
Note that if you find it difficult to stand and balance on one foot you may find it helpful to stabilize the knee joint. This means squeezing the muscles above the knee at the front and back of the leg.
Once you can comfortably lift your foot off of the floor you can work on Tree pose, Warrior 3 or Eagle Pose. For tree pose try pressing your foot into your inner thigh gradually. Stay aware of your supporting foot as you do so. In eagle focus even more attention on feeling your supporting foot. You may find it slightly confusing because the legs and ankles are crossed. Of the three warrior 3 is perhaps the easiest since the legs don't cross or touch. You can increase the challenge by turning this into a back strenghtening pose for your spinal erectors and hamstrings.
As you move into any of these yoga poses, notice when your weight shifts (you'll feel the change via your foot) and shift your body, particularly your pelvis to compensate.
If you are balancing on your right foot and your weight shifts to the outside of the foot, move your body to the left a little.
If you feel the inside of your right foot pressing down more then move your body to the right.
The sooner you feel these changes happening the sooner you can respond and the easier it is to keep balancing on one foot.
For more on learning to balance check out the newly updated Balance Basics.
If you want lift into headstand with legs straight, first get comfortable with falling safely. Then each of these steps so that you can learn to feel and control your balance while upside down.
I first started learning yoga from a book. I'd memorize a sequence of a few yoga poses at a time and then practice them. And then I'd learn some more.
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Yoga balance poses can be broken down into elements to make learning (and practicing) easier. Learn how to integrate your body and feel it so that balancing is easier.
Balance Basics shows you how to do balance postures easily. Using simple exercises learn how to feel and control your center and stay balanced.
Here is a selection of hamstring stretches designed to increase hamstring flexibility. Gravity assisted stretches utilize gravity to lengthen the hamstrings. Muscle assisted stretches use the arms to stretch the legs.
These shoulder stretches use muscle power or leverage to stretch the shoulders and the arms. They can also be used as preparations for binding yoga poses.
For people who can't do them, splits are one of the stretches that we can aspire towards. You can work towards splits first by using your arms to support your body, and then learning to use your legs to support your body even as you gradually go deeper.
Use Bound Angle Pose to loosen tight inner hips.
Happy baby hip stretch can be used as a substitute for low lunge and as a preparation (or alternative) for marichyasana type yoga poses as well as foot behind the head. And it's an easy way to stretch the hip extensors without involving the hamstrings.
Shoelace yoga pose is a do it yourself iliotibial band stretch that is mildly uncomfortable. If you are new to this stretch, you may need to do this pose on a low stool or yoga blocks to make the stretch more accesable
Low lunge yoga pose is a great way to stretch the hip extensors, including the adductor magnus. And it's also a great way to prepare for hamstring stretches. To deepen this hip stretch add weight to it.
High lunge can be used to both stretch and strenghten the hip flexors. It can also be used to develop awareness and control if you focus on lifting and lowering the back knee smoothly.
Seated glute stretch is a simple way to stretch the glutes. By varying the way you use your arms and also the position of your foot you can vary the way that you stretch your glute muscles and outer thigh.
Painful pose is a variation of low lunge that you can use to stretch your glutes and outer hip muscles. It's also a preparation for armpit pose.
Armpit pose is a combination of hip opening, twisting and shoulder stretching. The nice thing about it, if you can get into it, is that you can use body weight to help you deepen your twist and the shoulder stretch.
Spiderman chest stretch is a gravity assistend stretch that can be used to prepare for pincha mayurasana and wheel pose. It stretches the shoulders in an arms up-and-back position.
Puppy dog chest stretch is another stretch that I learned from Andrey Lappa. It can be a little bit difficult to get into so here are some suggested modifications to make working towards the full yoga pose easier.
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