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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Options for the lifted leg include:
These yoga balance poses are covered in balancing on one foot.
In poses like
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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) 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?
Here's some basic tips for making balance easier from Balance Basics.
You can also order Balance Basics on Amazon.
Stability in yoga can arise from tension control which can also lead to better sensitivity and responsiveness both in static poses and movement.
Three simple techniques for alleviating hip joint pain while doing yoga poses.
Hamstring Anatomy for yoga practitioners, focusing on backbending and forward bending of the hips with knees bent and straight.
Sitting bone pain while bending forwards may be a result of a facilitated (overactive) obturator internus or coccygeus muscle.
After a bit of a hiatus its back to stretching for beginners.
The latest installment is a mini sequence that works towards the half split inner thigh stretch with some prone twisting and outer thigh stretching followed by some recovery work with standing poses to help reactivate the inner thighs.
This set of poses is designed to show you how to activate the spinal erectors to bend the spine backwards so that you stretch the front of the torso. It also includes stretches like upright pigeon pose and upward facing dog for stretching the front of the hip (the hip flexors).
The latest stretch in the "Stretches for Beginners" series is a set of hip extensor stretches including happy baby and low lunge. Previous stretches in this series include bound angle (baddha konasana) and a pigeon pose hip stretch for the sides of the hip.
For well being is it better to be able to contract a muscle or relax it? I'd suggest that you learn to do both and just as importantly... Learn to feel when a muscle is activated and when it is relaxed.
The key to both is...
The yoga basics bundle is a collection of five yoga basics ebooks: balance basics, shoulder basics, backbend basics, hamstring basics and the hip control guide all for $52.00. (The suggested regular price is $124.95)
Consciousness is like the Captain of a ship. At times the ship it commands can be very big with lots of sailors to tell what to do, at other times the captain is sailing solo, taking care of the sails and the tiller.
This is a mini-routine that I've been using in my classes recently to teach awareness and control of the foundation in poses like
table top, high lunge, low lunge, extended cat pose, and yoga push ups (leading to chaturanga dandasana.)
This can lead to smoother and more mindful movement.
Tensegrity basics: tension doesn't just integrate the body, it can be used for proprioception and for responsiveness and quicker reactions.
What is proper yoga alignment for handstand? Why not learn to feel and control your shoulders and ribcage so that you can learn to feel when your body is best aligned.
In this video some tips for body weight squat and the one legged pistol squat with a focus on "feeling your body."
Why do a pistol squat? To improve hip strength and left/right hip balance. This may help to alleviate low back pain.
This dance of shiva video playlist includes cyclic movement combinations: F-F, B-B, F-B, B-F, CF-CF, CB-CB, CF-CB, CB-CF.
Learn how to stabilize the shoulder and hip in side plank.
This video goes over some basic body awareness exercises you can do while working towards side plank.
This Beginners Yoga Routine is from the ebook Yoga Basics 2, Muscle Control and Stability Exercises for More Flexible Hamstrings. It's designed to introduce a sequence of basic yoga poses.
Having trouble getting your heels down in downward facing dog? Here's an easy way to sink them lower included with a discussion on how to use downward dog as a preparation for wheel pose.
In triangle pose work on hip stability and foot and leg control to help sink the ribcage towards the leg.
Simple instructions for getting into yoga tree pose and how to make both sides even while doing this yoga balancing pose.