by Nate Guadagni
Uh Oh… Look at all the shoes! The Saturday 9am class is always crowded, but based on the mountain range of flip-flops, loafers, and tennis shoes, it looks like today is going to be sardines. It’s 9:01 as you scan the room through rows of yogis and yoga paraphernalia. There! You eye an open space in the front row and like a graceful Godzilla, clamber over towers of blocks and hills of blankets. Halfway there, you turn your head as you spot a friend, and don’t see the coiled strap on the hardwood floor lurking behind a block. A metallic clink of the buckle becomes a scrape and you start to slip, recovering just in time by lowering your body and touching the ground with one hand. Heart beating, you take one last giant step over the legs of a supine student and arrive on your mat. As if on cue, the cheerful teacher informs the class, “Today, we’re going to work on your balance!”
By the end of the hour, you will have added some rings to your Tree Pose, and perhaps flown a little higher in your Eagle Pose, yet you may have had a more well-rounded balance class before you even got on your mat! Yoga has been proven to improve your balance, yet unless you have significant cross training, it may not address all the types of balance you need to avoid a dreaded fall.
Let’s go over the 5 Types of Balance together:
1. Static: The poses you hold in class, such as Tree Pose, Eagle, Warrior 3, and Triangle. (Don’t believe me? Try closing your eyes!)
2. Dynamic: Balance while moving, such as jumping, dancing, skateboarding and Tai Chi.
3. Hybrid: Combining Dynamic and Static, like hopping across stones in a river or over props in a classroom.
4. Anticipatory: Judging in advance how far and high you need to hop to clear that HydroFlask and sweatshirt.
5. Reactive: Recovering from an unexpected slip or trip whether on a hidden yoga strap or that extra stair.
Yoga props such as blocks and Balance Bars can be great tools to help you build confidence and stability in your static poses, however it would be wise to borrow some props and practices from the fitness world to help de-stabilize and challenge your balance as well. Props such as the Balance Pad, Balance Board or BOSU Ball can all be used to help you improve your dynamic, hybrid, anticipatory and reactive balance along with some cross-training with other disciplines.
Although balance naturally declines after 40, there’s no reason why it can’t improve at any age. (Curious about your balance? Try this 3 Min Balance Test.)