Yoga Balance Poses
Shifting Your Center of Gravity and Controlling It

balancing in bound headstand with legs horizontal (90 degrees)

One of the key elements of balance in any yoga balance pose, assuming that stability is taking care of, is keeping the bodies center of gravity over the foundation.

The Foundation of a Yoga Balance Pose

I'll define here the foundation of a yoga pose as any part of the body that is in contact with the floor and that is supporting some portion of the body's center of gravity. In general this means that any part of the foundation presses down into the floor because it is supporting the weight of the body.

Part of balancing successfully can include choosing where to position your center relative to your foundation, i.e. which part of the foundation are you trying to keep your center over, and also being able to sense where you center of gravity is relative to your foundation.

This means not only sensing when your center is over your target area but also sensing when your center is moving away from the target area.

Centers of Gravity

Sensitivity without the ability to effectively respond is an exercise in frustration (unless you like frustration) and so another part of balance is being able to control your body in such a way that you can position your center and move it as required.

One idea that may be helpful in this regard is to think of each part of the body, the forearms, the upper arms, the head, the ribcage, the pelvis, the thighs, the calves and feet, a each having their own center of gravity.

Shifting Your Center of Gravity Relative to Your Body

The position of the body's overall center of gravity depends on the position of all of these elements relative to each other.

As an example, standing upright with arms by your sides your center is somewhere on the centre line of your body, over a point between your two feet. Move one arm to the side, without moving any other part of your body, then you shift your center relative to the center of your body. It moves closer to the side of the body with the arm that is outstretched.

Move the other arm out then your center again returns to your center line.

Move both arms forwards then your center moves forwards relative to your body. Move your arms back and then your center moves rearwards. Move one arm forwards and the other arm back then your center of gravity remains fairly close to your front back center line.

Standing upright and pushing your hips left and leaning your torso right then your center will remain stationary relative to your feet. Instead your pelvis will have moved relative to your center so that your center is now to the right side of your pelvis. (See pictures below).

location of center of gravity, body straight and uprightlocation of center of gravity, body bent to the side

Back to upright, moving your hips back and your torso forwards then your hips again move relative to your center so that your center is now shifted closer towards your head.

In this position if you reach your arms back your body will move forwards. If you reach your arms forwards you body will move back.

location of center of gravity, body bent forwards with arms backlocation of center of gravity, body bent forwards with arms forwards, neil keleher, sensational yoga poses

In this case your center remains fixed relative to your foundation but your body moves relative to it.

Pushing your pelvis forwards or backwards (while staying balanced) you also shift your center in front of your pelvis or behind it but your center (because you are still balanced) stays over your foundation.

Balancing (or Finding Balance) in Various Yoga Balance Poses

Balancing in Crow Pose (Bakasana) and Other Arm Balances

Moving into an arm balancing yoga pose like Crow Pose (bakasana) you start with your center of gravity over your feet.

crow pose prep, weight on feetcrow pose prep, weight between hands and feetcrow pose, weight on hands (knees pressing into arms)

Since your hands are in front of your feet (with your knees against your arms) to balance on the hands in this pose you have to shift your center forwards, so that it is over your hands. So you have to move your body forwards.

This same is true in most arm balances if you start with your weight on your feet (or foot) behind your hands.

To balance in these yoga balance poses you have to get your weight, your center of gravity forwards over your hands.

Half Moon Pose

In a pose like half moon pose it can be easy to shift your weight towards your hand so that your center is actually over a point between your hand and foot. How do you then lift the hand? By shifting your body so that your center of gravity is over your foot.

half moon pose, weight between hand and foot.half moon pose, hand lifted, weight over foot

Balancing in Side Plank Pose

In side plank pose, to balance you have to have your center of gravity somewhere over the line that connects hand and foot. If you make the foot stable, or even easier, if you place one foot in front of the other, it is easier to keep your center of this line.

balancing in side plank yoga pose, neil keleher, sensational yoga poses

One of the easier ways to stay balanced in this pose is to move the hips.

If you feel your weight shifting forwards then move your hips backwards.
If you feel your weight shifting backwards then move your hips forwards to compensate.

And for either of these corrections stop when you feel your center of gravity is over the center line otherwise you'll just hip sway between the two nearly unbalanced positions.

Balancing in Bound Headstand

In bound headstand you can keep your center over the line midway between elbows and crown.

balancing in bound headstand, neil keleher, sensational yoga poses

If you are trying to lift into headstand with legs straight then it helps to understand that with your feet an inch off of the floor you have to move your hips back to counter balance the weight of the legs.

Moving the legs to horizontal the hips have to move back even more.

balancing in bound headstand with legs horizontal (90 degrees)

From here approaching the legs vertical position the hips can move forwards so that you keep your center of gravity over your foundation.

Moving from Plow Pose to Shoulderstand (Without Hurting Your Neck)

Moving from plow pose to shoulderstand the same can apply.

To avoid excess stress on your neck move your hips forwards (away from your head) to balance the weight of the legs. As your legs approach vertical you can move your hips back, towards your head, to keep your center of gravity over a point between shoulders and elbows.

plough poseplough pose

An alternative is to prebrace the neck prior to lifting the feet by pressing the back of the head into the floor.

shoulderstand.

This then "widens" or broadens your foundation from front to back since the tension in the back of the neck forces the head to act as part of the foundation. You can then lift your legs without having to move your hips so far forwards.

Balancing in Handstand

For balancing in handstands the intent can be to keep your center over your hands. When jumping up you'll probably have to angle your arms so that your shoulders move forwards. This then gets your center over your hands.

moving into handstandmoving into handstand

As you bring the legs up past the horizontal then you can bring your shoulders back over your hands so that your arms are vertical.

moving into handstandhandstand, arms vertical

In both headstand and handstand to reduce the need for your center of gravity to go forwards, bend the knees or move the legs out to the sides as you lift them

Or scissor the legs, bringing one leg behind the body to help balance the weight of the leg that is in front of the body.

If you are doing a handstand against a wall then you can use a similiar understanding to get your feet off of the wall. Either pull your pelvis forwards first to get your center over your hands or scissor one leg forwards to get your weight over your hands. If you pelvis is forwards, then as you bring your feet off of the wall move your pelvis backwards to maintain balance.

If scissoring the legs, then after removing your other leg from the wall bring both legs together to keep your center of gravity over your hands.

Stability and Feeling Your Center of Gravity

I've included a slightly more detailed discussion of balance, (most notably using floor contact to feel where your center of gravity is with respect to your foundation) in the ebook Balance Basics.

I've included more detail on stability and balance in improving balance.

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Balancing Poses

Body Awareness

Pain and other Problems

Beginners, Basics and Specialized Practices

More Balance

Yoga Balance Poses and
Shifting Your Center.

Arm Balances and
Learning to Balance

Yoga for Motorcyclists
Improve Cornering Comfort and Confidence.

Yoga Poses to Improve Balance.
They're Fun and a Little Unusual.

Improving Balance,
Focus on Stability.

Balancing on One Foot
Working on Foot and Hip Stability

Binding and Balancing,
Binding Changes Tension and Stability!

Taking the Balance Component Out of
Inverted Yoga Poses

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Yoga Tree Pose

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Some simple steps for working towards side plank so that you can balance more easily and do it with a stabilized shoulder.

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Continue reading "SI Joint Stability Exercises"

What's New?

Sensational Yoga Poses

Much of how I do and teach yoga poses is based on my experience fixing guns in the army, engineering, practicing Chinese Calligraphy and my experience of anatomy.

Continue reading "Sensational Yoga Poses"

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Make your yoga poses less wobbly with less effort. Grounding and centering are two techniques for creating stability in yoga poses.

Continue reading "Stability in Yoga Poses"

Video: Upward Facing Dog

Some exercises for upward facing dog including: How to activate (and feel) the back of the body and legs, pulling the shoulders downwards (or ribcage upwards) using either lats or pec minor

Continue reading "Video: Upward Facing Dog"

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Work towards Half Bound Lotus Yoga Pose with exercises for closing the knee, stretching the hip rotators, practicing external rotation of the shin and activating and shaping the foot and ankle.

Continue reading "Bound Lotus Yoga Pose"

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Do you experience knee pain while doing chair yoga pose? Here are some suggestions to alleviate knee pain. You can also use chair pose as an excuse to practice squatting.

Continue reading "Chair Yoga Pose"

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Learn how to use your foot and leg to stay stable while balancing on one foot and one hand in half moon yoga pose.

Continue reading "Half Moon Yoga Pose"

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Some simple exercises to help you prepare for and balance in yoga crow pose arm balance and some suggestions for advanced movements like jumping from bakasana into chaturanga dandasana.

Continue reading "Yoga Crow Pose Arm Balance"

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Hamstring Anatomy for yoga practitioners, focusing on backbending and forward bending of the hips with knees bent and straight.

Continue reading "Hamstring Anatomy for Yoga"

Muscle Anatomy for Yoga

Improve your kinaesthetic awareness. Understanding some basic muscle anatomy for yoga, learn where to direct your senses and how to better control your muscles.

Continue reading "Muscle Anatomy for Yoga"

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A selection of standing and seated yoga hamstring stretches, both gravity assisted and muscle assisted for improving hamstring flexibility. Sensational Yoga Poses.

Continue reading "Yoga Hamstring Stretches"

Yoga Hip Stretches

Yoga Hip stretches for improved hip and leg flexibility.

Continue reading "Yoga Hip Stretches"

Yoga Tree Pose

One of the challenges of yoga tree pose is staying balanced. Another challeng is that one side may be easier than the other.

Continue reading "Yoga Tree Pose"

Hamstring Yoga

Learn how the hamstrings can bend the knees and hips and stabilize them in hamstring yoga on sensational yoga poses.

Continue reading "Hamstring Yoga"

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Some simple steps for working towards side plank so that you can balance more easily and do it with a stabilized shoulder.

Continue reading "Side Plank Step-by-Step"

Shoulder Yoga

Shoulder yoga improves shoulder flexiblity and strength by focusing on shoulder and ribcage awareness while stretching or exercising the shoulders

Continue reading "Shoulder Yoga"

Rotator Cuff Exercises

These rotator cuff exercises can be done while standing or sitting and can be used as part of a warm up for a yoga class or any other activity where the arms are used.

Continue reading "Rotator Cuff Exercises"

Cobra Pose

To work towards cobra pose I use a series of poses to teach my students how to feel and activate their spinal erectors, intercostals, glute max and hamstrings.

Continue reading "Cobra Pose"

Wheel Pose for Beginners (video)

Here's a look at wheel pose and how you can make it easier to get your head off of the floor.

Continue reading "Wheel Pose for Beginners (video)"

Latest Headstand Videos

Some basic headstand preparation exercises plus tips on how to roll out of headstand and how to avoid a collapsed back when lifting your legs in headstand.

Continue reading "Latest Headstand Videos"

SI Joint Stability Exercises

The SI Joint could allow the sides of the pelvis to act somewhat like the shoulder blades. What are the muscles that then "shape the pelvis" and or stabilize it?

Continue reading "SI Joint Stability Exercises"