Yoga Balance Poses
Learning to Feel Your Center of Gravity and Control 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 with the heels lifted.

To stay balanced in this position work at keeping 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 is again evenly distributed between your toes and forefeet.

Balancing by Feeling Your Center of Gravity and Controlling It

Why should we focus on keeping the pressure even between the toes and forefoot?

Our weight is centered between two points when they press down with equal pressure.

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.

If, while balancing on the fronts of our feet, our center shifts forwards, we'll be able to feel that because our toes will press down with greater pressure.

Of our center of gravity has shifted too far forwards then one of the ways to get our center of gravity back to where we want it is to use the toes to press our body backwards. But only just enough to get our center where we want it.

The more we focus on feeling our feet the sooner we can spot when our center of gravity shifts (relative to our foundation) and the sooner we can compensate by moving our center back to where we want it to be.

A Standing Balance Exercise

Instead of trying to balance on your toes and forefeet straight away work gradually towards holding the pose for longer by first practicing rocking forwards and backwards. If we do so while focusing on feeling the weight shift in your feet we can get used to feeling pressure changes via our connection to the earth.

Front to Back Weight Shifting

Yoga Balance Poses, front to back weight shift. Standing with feet hip width apart and parallel with knees slightly bent (and pointing in the same direction as the toes, start with weight even between forefeet and heels. Then shift your weight forwards so that your toes and forefeet press down with equal pressure. Then lift your heels. Then reverse. Make sure you pause with weight forwards before you lift your heels. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.

For this standing balance exercise start with feet hip width apart and parallel with knees slightly bent. Point your knees in the same direction as your toes.

(If your knees point inwards then chances are your inner arches have collapsed. This can make balancing difficult, particularly when balancing on one foot.)

Starting with weight even between heels and forefoot, rock forwards so that you feel your toes and the fronts of your feet pressing down with equal pressure. Keep your heels on the floor (as in the first two pictures above.)

Then rock back.

When you rock forwards center your weight between forefoot and toes. When you rock back center your weight between heel and forefoot.

Repeat a few times moving slowly and smoothly.

Four Part Standing Balance Exercise (Adding a Heel Lift)

You can turn the above balance exercise into a four part weight shifting exercise that includes a heel lift as follows:

  1. rock forwards,
  2. lift the heels,
  3. lower the heels,
  4. rock back.

Keep the knees bent as you rock forwards and backwards.

Then, after repeating a few times, keep your weight forwards and keep your heels lifted.

Gradually lift your heels higher, straightening your knees as you do so.

You can try to lengthen your spine at the same time.

In this side view of the body the heels are lifted. Weight is evenly distributed between toes and forefeet. This means that the center of gravity of the body is positioned over a point midway between toes and forefeet. This makes it possible to keep the heels lifted while standing. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.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.

Yoga Balance Poses on One Leg

To balance on one foot at a time focus on keeping even pressure between the inner and outer edge of the foot you are standing on. Any changes in the way these two edges press down indicated that your center of gravity has shifted.

To counteract this shift:

  • 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.

You may find it easier to balance on one foot if you first practice weight shifting from side to side.

Side to Side Weight Shifting Yoga Balance Exercise

For side to side weight shifting start with your knees bent and weight even between both feet.

In this front view of the body while standing, weight is even on both feet. This means that the center of gravity is over a point midway between both feet. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.In this front view of the body the weight of the body is focused on the right foot. This means that the center of gravity is over the right foot. The left foot is empty meaning that it is not bearing any weight (except for the weight of the leg itself.) Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.

Shift your weight onto one foot. Pause and then move back to center.

Repeat to the same side a few times and then switch or alternate sides each time.

If you practice moving slowly and smoothly you may feel your supporting leg gradually becoming more stable and the other leg gradually relaxing.

Adding A Leg Lift

As with the forwards/backwards weight shifting balance exercise, you can do the side ways weight shift in four steps.

From center shift to one foot, lift the other foot, place the foot down, then shift to center. Repeat to the same side or alternate sides each time you return to center.

In this front view of the body while standing, weight is even on both feet. This means that the center of gravity is over a point midway between both feet. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.In this front view of the body the weight of the body is focused on the right foot. This means that the center of gravity is over the right foot. The left foot is empty meaning that it is not bearing any weight (except for the weight of the leg itself.) Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.In this front view of the body while standing the weight of the body is centered over the right foot meaning that the left foot can be lifted. In this photo the heel or the left foot is lifted with the toes of the left foot still touching the floor. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.In this front view of the body the left leg is lifted to the front with knee bent. Weight is entirely over the right foot meaning that the center of gravity is over the right foot. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.

When lifting a leg in this balance exercise initially try lifting the leg just a little. If you then hold the balancing position, then work at gradually lifting the leg higher.

When putting the foot down, pause when the foot touches the floor. Keep your weight on one leg. Then shift back to center.

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.

I've included more details on creating foot and ankle stability in Balance Basics.

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.

Balancing on One Leg with the Lifted Leg Bound

In poses like tree pose, eagle, half bound lotus and utthitta hasta padangusthasana 1 and 2 the lifted leg is either bound or contacting the other foot.

This can make staying balanced trickier.

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

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

Read Balance Basics for more on balance, including tips on:

  • weight shifting and stabilizing in balancing cat
  • balancing on single point foundations
  • different ways to compensate when your center shifts.
  • shifting your center of gravity and stabilizing it
  • tips on working towards headstand and handstand.

You can also order Balance Basics on Amazon.

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