Some fun yoga poses to improve balance include balancing on one shin, balancing cat pose with the same side hand and foot lifted, balancing on the knees, and even balancing while kneeling with the toes tucked under and the knees lifted.
Other balance variations can include side plank, downward dog with the same side arm and leg lifted, boat pose, rolling sit ups, and backwards rolling. Some standing yoga poses for improving balance include weight shifting from two legs to one and also weight shifting forwards and backwards while standing on both feet or only on one foot.
Keys to improving balance include:
Feeling where your center of gravity is using your foundation,
Understanding your foundation and how to use it,
And knowing that the position of your center of gravity changes with respect to your body depending on the shape of the pose you are doing.
These tips can be especially important to understand when trying to learn inverted yoga poses.
Assuming that you are comfortable kneeling, the following yoga poses include balancing on the knees, on the fronts of the feet, and then on one shin.
While kneeling shift your weight forwards so that your weight is over your knees. Shift far enough forwards that your feet lightly touch the floor. Then try to lift your feet.
Next while kneeling with toes tucked under lean back till your knees lightly touch the floor. Then try to lift them while staying balanced. Then see if you can touch them back to the floor with control.
It's a little bit tricky.
Improving balance can be a little more fun with the following "yoga" pose. Kneeling with your hips lifted, shift your weight to one shin and then lift the other shin. To make balancing easier you may find it helpful to shift your weight back. Then press your toes into the floor. You can then use your toes to help you balance.
While staying balanced on one shin, try shifting your weight forwards, to the point that your weight is over your knee and you can lift your foot. Relax and then try it on the other side.
A variation of this pose is to start in a square lunge. Shift your weight back and then lift the front foot. You can also try straightening the lifted leg while staying balanced.
A variation of the shin balance exercise starts on all fours. Shift your hips to one side and reach one leg back. Then shift your ribcage to the same side and reach the free arm forwards. You may find this balancing yoga pose easier if you lift the hand first and then the leg.
Press your foot down and use your toes to help you balance. Also spread your fingers and make them strong to help you balance.
A more advanced yoga pose for improving balance is to grab the foot behind the back staying balanced on the same side shin and hand.
Using side plank yoga pose to improve balance, you can first try it with the bottom knee bent and the shin on the floor. Another possibility is to separate the feet so that both feet are on the floor. When doing this pose with the feet together stabilize the bottom foot. Make it strong and stable so that you are less likely to wobble all over the place. Balancing in side plank includes an even more basic progression.
For downward dog you can first focus on reaching back with your hips. Then shift your ribcage to one side and lift the un-weighted hand. Then shift the hips and lift the un-weighted foot (shift ribcage and pelvis to the same side.) Keep your foot and ankle stiff to make staying balanced as easy as possible.
Rolling sit ups are another favorite balancing exercise which also exercise the abs. Round the back and roll backwards and then forwards back up to a seated position. (Use your hands if you need to, then work towards doing it without having to use your hands to help.)
Once you have the hang of it, work at doing it slowly.
Then roll all the way back onto your shoulders and then forwards onto your buttocks. This can be used as a preparation for plow yoga pose. When rolling back if you can't get your hips up and your legs back, use your hands to help. Get used to getting your weight over your shoulders so that you don't need to use your hands. To roll slowly work at keeping your center just over your point of contact with the floor, or just in front of it so that this imbalance helps you to roll.
A variation of this balance exercise starts in dead dog pose. Lying on all fours with arms and legs reaching straight up, reach your hands and legs forwards and lift your head. Then slowly sit up and while balancing on your butt. Pause and then return to the dead dog position, but slowly. Repeat a few times. (First 2 pictures below.)
Yet another rolling balance exercise is to roll back and then roll up into a squat (last picture above). This can be used as a transtion from sitting to standing. The idea is to be able to roll into a squat from a seated position. But to work towards that you may have to roll on to your shoulders first and use momentum.
This crow pose video is quite popular on youtube.
Once you can do crow pose then another yoga balance exercise is to balance on your butt, roll back slowly, then roll forwards slowly into a squat and then from there continue moving forwards into crow pose.
Then reverse the process and repeat.
Standing up from crow pose, some standing balancing exercises for improving balance include balancing on the fronts of your feet and balancing on one foot.
Standing with feet parallel and hip width apart, shift your weight forwards till you feel your toes pressing down. Shift forwards just enough that your toes and forefeet press down with equal pressure. Then lift your heels an inch off of the floor.
Another standing pose to improve balance is to stand on one foot. try shifting sideways to one foot. Lift the other foot without moving your upper body.
If doing a standing yoga pose where one foot contacts the other, like yoga tree pose or eagle yoga pose, I'd suggest move slowly. Also you may find it easier to focus on simple balancing on one foot poses first.
In yoga tree pose, the foot pressing against the inner thigh changes the tension in the leg making it difficult to stay balanced. So slowly connect foot to thigh and then gradually increase pressure.
Likewise with eagle yoga pose. Slowly intertwine the legs while focusing on your standing leg. Once intertwined you can add tension to the graudally legs by pressing the knees and shins against each other.
In yoga balancing poses where you are grabbing a knee or foot with one or both hands, such as utthitta hasta padangusthasana and/or ardha baddha padmottanasana, gradually increase tension so that you can maintain balance.
For improving balance while doing standing yoga poses you may find it helpful to learn how to use your feet. The exercises in these videos I developed because I have flat feet (collapsed arches actually) but even if you don't have flat feet these exercise can be used to improve foot awareness and foot stability making it easier to stay balance on one or both legs. These exercises can also be very helpful if you practice Tai Ji.
You may be interested in the Yoga Balance Basics ebook for more exercises to improve balance (as well as the theory behind it).
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