Yoga Balance Poses
Basic Balance Theory: Feeling your Center and Controlling It

Yoga balance poses, balancig on the fronts of the feet. In this balancing pose I'm standing on both fee with heels lifted. To stay balance I focus on keeping the pressure even between toes and forefeet. This tells me that I'm keeping my center of gravity over a position midway between toes and forefeet. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.

One of the simplest yoga balance poses is to balance on the fronts of the feet and toes with the heels lifted.

To stay balanced keep even pressure on your toes and forefeet.
If you notice that your toes start to press down with more pressure than your forefeet then shift your pelvis back slightly. If you notice your forefeet pressing down with greater pressure than your toes then shift your weight forwards.

In either case work at shifting your weight just enough so that pressure remains evenly distributed between toes and forefeet.

Balancing by Feeling Your Center of Gravity and Controlling It

In general, if two points of our foundation are pressing down with equal pressure it means that our center of gravity is centered directly between those two points.

Balancing on the fronts of our feet if our toes and forefeet (our "two points") press down with equal pressure then this means that our center of gravity is over a point midway between these two pressure points.

If our center shifts forwards then it will cause out toes to press down with greater pressure. If we notice this increase in pressure we can focus on moving our pelvis back just enough so that pressure is again equal between toes and forefeet.

If our center of gravity shifts backwards then it will cause our forefeet to press down with greater pressure. Noticing our toes getting lighter or our forefeet pressing down with greater pressure we can take any action necessary to shift our center forwards again.

If we feel the shifting of our center of gravity early enough we can use our feet to help halt the movement. For example if we feel our center going forwards we can press our toes down to help lever our center of gravity back to center. However if our center goes too far forwards we'll have to do something else to regain balance. Likewise, if our center shifts rearwards we can try pressing down through our forefeet to push our center forwards again.

The sooner we feel our center moving forwards or backwards, the sooner we can respond. And in general, the sooner we respond the less effort that is required to stay balanced.

Note that when balancing on the fronts of the feet and toes, you only have to lift the heels a little bit to stay balanced.

To practice awareness and sensitivity see if you can shift your weight forwards without lifting your heels. Try to press your forefeet and toes down with equal pressure but with your heels still touching the floor.

Then lift your heels just a little bit (half an inch or less) and work at staying balanced.

Yoga Balance Poses on One Leg

When balancing on one foot focus on keeping even pressure between the inner and outer edge of the foot you are standing on.

If your center of gravity shifts towards the outside of your foot you'll feel the outside of your foot press down with greater pressure. If your weight shifts to the inside of the foot you'll feel the inside of your foot press down with greater pressure.

As with balancing on the fronts of your feet, the sooner you feel your center shifting the sooner you can take action and the easier it can be to stay balanced.

  • If you feel the outer edge of your standing foot pressing down more then shift weight towards the instep.
  • If pressure increases on the instep then shift weight towards the outer edge of the foot.

Generally when teaching beginners to balance on one foot I'll often suggest a very simple balancing on one leg yoga pose, one where the non-weighted foot is simply lifted a few inches off of the floor.

Stabilize Your Foot and Ankle

When shifting onto one foot, and particularly when lifting the other foot, make sure that your standing foot and ankle are stable.

These Foot Exercises may help, particularly if, like me, you have collapsed arches.

Balancing on One Foot with the Lifted Leg Unbound

Options for the lifted leg include:

  • lifting the leg forwards with knee bent or to the side in a fake yoga tree pose,
  • or you can straighten it to the front as in utthitta hasta padangusthasana 3.

These yoga balance poses are covered in balancing on one foot.

In poses like

  • tree pose,
  • eagle yoga pose,
  • half bound lotus and
  • utthitta hasta padangusthasana 1 and 2

the lifted foot is either bound or contacting the other leg.

This can make staying balanced trickier.

And so it helps to move into these types of balancing poses gradually. These balancing postures are covered in covered later in the balancing on one foot page.

Forward Weight Shifting In Arm Balances

One of the reasons that I so often teach the standing weight shift as a prelude to other balancing exercises or balancing yoga poses is that the same principle can be applied to other poses.

In the front to back weight shift, our center of gravity is centered between the toes and forefeet when they both press down with equal pressure. That means that our heels aren't supporting any weight and so we can lift them and keep them lifted.

The same principle can be used to balance (and stay balanced) in arm balances like crow pose (below left).

When shifting your weight forwards, look for the position where the heels of your hands and your finger tips (or the front of the palm) press down with even pressure. That tells you that your weight is over your hands and you should then be able to lift your feet without hopping. (When lifting your feet be sure to keep your arms and shoulders stable. Some of my students let their arms and shoulders collapse as they lift their feet and this allows their weight to shift backwards. As in the standing on one leg exercise, stabilize your foundation.)

Use the same principle to get your feet off of the floor in mayurasana (below right).

yoga balance poses, crow pose, arm balancing yoga poses, crow pose with elbows slightly bent, sensational yoga poses, Neil KeleherIn this side view of mayurasana or peacock yoga pose the body is inclined so that the head is lower than the feet. Elbows are bent and the belly rests on the elbows. Knees are straight. I balance in this pose by positioning my center of gravity over my hands. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.

Entering Crow Pose from Tripod Headstand

Note that some students like to try getting into bakasana (another name for crow pose) by starting in tripod headstand.

The first step is to place the shins on the backs of the arms. (Try pressing the shins downwards into the backs of the arms.)

To get the head of the floor shift your weight backwards. Notice when your weight is totally on your hands (with no weight on your head) and then stop your rearward movement. Keep your weight over your hands as you lift your head. Otherwise, if your weight keeps moving backwards then you'll end up with your feet on the floor again.

Balancing Cat Pose

balancing cat pose, also called bird dog pose in somce circles. In this variation of balancing cat pose the leg and arm on the same side are both lifted. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.

In Balancing Cat Pose the idea is to lift the same side leg and arm. What do you do prior to lifting the leg and arm? Shift your weight first (and feel your weight shift.) Then lift your arm and leg.

Balancing in Bound Headstand (Sirsasana)

In this side view of bound headstand (salamba sirsasana) the torso and legs are vertical. To stay balanced and stable I'm focused on keeping my center of gravity midway between elbows and hands. To do so I focus on keeping the pressure even between elbows and crow of the head. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.

In Bound Headstand the hands are clasped behind the head the head with the elbows and forearms resting on the floor.

To balance in this yoga balance pose I'd suggest keeping your center of gravity midway between elbows and crown of the head.

To do this keep the pressure even between your elbows and the crow of your head.

How do You Keep Foundation Stable in Bound Headstand?

Headstand with knees straight and toes on the floor.heastand with knees straight and toes a few inches off of the floor.

In Bound Headstand Use Your Shoulders to Press Your Elbows into the floor.

When moving into bound headstand with legs straight use the shoulders to press the elbows into the floor.

This is especially important when trying to lift the feet off of the floor with knees straight. This also applies when doing bound headstand with feet against the wall.

Headstand with feet just leaving a wall, knees slightly bent and legs close to horizontal.

To get your feet off of the wall, use the shoulders to stabilize the elbows.

When you press your elbows down, and you feel the connection between feet and wall relax then you know you can bring your feet away from the wall.

A similiar trick can be used to pull the feet away from the wall while doing handstand.

One of the reasons I often prefer doing handstand as opposed to headstand is that in handstand there is no pressure on the neck.

That being said, one of the things to also look out for when doing bound headstand is to keep the neck stable. To that make aligning the neck and stabilizing it part of your headstand warm up.

Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana)

shoulder stand.

Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana) is an inverted yoga pose most often used as a counter pose for headstand.

When I first started doing shoulderstand I was always worried about rolling over my head and hurting my neck.

With an understanding of balance and an improved awareness of how to feel my body I find that this fear is easier to overcome.

Where do you think your weight should be to make this pose comfortable?

If you have trouble getting up into Shoulderstand then use a wall to help. Once you are comfortable using a wall, you can work towards rolling into shoulderstand.

More On Understanding Balance: Balance Basics

Here's some basic tips for making balance easier from Balance Basics.

You can also order Balance Basics on Amazon.

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