Balance is the Key to Life


Just yesterday I was helping a friend pack her moving van and three times I tripped as I failed to notice her STEP DOWN family room (yes I am a slow learner). Luckily I was able to right myself and keep from falling to the ground and injuring myself.

 



Important for Fall Prevention

Each year many people incur injury due to falls. Fall-related injuries can have a serious impact on a person's life. Balance exercises, along with certain strength exercises, can help prevent falls by improving your ability to control and maintain your body's position, whether you are moving or still. 


To get all of the benefits of physical activity we need to make sure and incorporate all four types of exercise -- 1. Endurance 2. Strength, 3. Balance  and 4.Flexibility. This week we are going to work on balance.

Please read carefully through the entire post. I list the more challenging balance exercises at the end. Choose carefully something that will challenge you to increase your core balance. 

Beginner's Balance Exercises to Try

The 5 exercises that follow are aimed at improving your balance and your lower body strength. They include
  1. standing on one foot
  2. walking heel to toe
  3. balance walk
  4. back leg raises
  5. side leg raises

Anywhere, Anytime

You can do balance exercises almost anytime, anywhere, and as often as you like, as long as you have something sturdy nearby to hold on to if you become unsteady. In the beginning, using a chair or the wall for support will help you work on your balance safely. 
Balance exercises overlap with the lower body strength exercises, which also can improve your balance. Do the strength exercises -- back leg raises, side leg raises, and hip extensions -- two or more days per week, but not on any two days in a row. 

Modify as You Progress 

The exercises which follow can improve your balance even more if you modify them as you progress. Start by holding on to a sturdy chair for support. To challenge yourself, try holding on to the chair with only one hand; then with time, you can try holding on with only one finger, then no hands. If you are steady on your feet, try doing the exercise with your eyes closed.

Safety Tips

  • Have a sturdy chair or a person nearby to hold on to if you feel unsteady.
  • Talk with your doctor if you are unsure about doing a particular exercise.

Standing on One Foot

Demonstration of standing on one foot while balancing on a chair. - Click to enlarge in new window.
Improve your balance by standing on one foot.
  1. Stand on one foot behind a sturdy chair, holding on for balance.
  2. Hold position for up to 10 seconds. 
  3. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
  4. Repeat 10 to 15 times with other leg. 
  5. Repeat 10 to 15 more times with each leg. 

Walking Heel to Toe

Demonstration of walking heel to toe. - Click to enlarge in new window.
Improve your balance by walking heel to toe.
  1. Position the heel of one foot just in front of the toes of the other foot. Your heel and toes should touch or almost touch. 
  2. Choose a spot ahead of you and focus on it to keep you steady as you walk. 
  3. Take a step. Put your heel just in front of the toe of your other foot. 
  4. Repeat for 20 steps.

Balance Walk

Demonstration of the balance walk. - Click to enlarge in new window.
Improve your balance with the balance walk.
  1. Raise arms to sides, shoulder height. 
  2. Choose a spot ahead of you and focus on it to keep you steady as you walk. 
  3. Walk in a straight line with one foot in front of the other. 
  4. As you walk, lift your back leg. Pause for 1 second before stepping forward. 
  5. Repeat for 20 steps, alternating legs.

Back Leg Raises

Demonstration of back leg raises. - Click to enlarge in new window.
Strengthen your buttocks and lower back with back leg raises.
  1. Stand behind a sturdy chair, holding on for balance. Breathe in slowly. 
  2. Breathe out and slowly lift one leg straight back without bending your knee or pointing your toes. Try not to lean forward. The leg you are standing on should be slightly bent.
  3. Hold position for 1 second. 
  4. Breathe in as you slowly lower your leg. 
  5. Repeat 10 to 15 times. 
  6. Repeat 10 to 15 times with other leg. 
  7. Repeat 10 to 15 more times with each leg.

Side Leg Raises

Demonstration of side leg raises. - Click to enlarge in new window.
Strengthen your hips, thighs, and buttocks with side leg raises.
  1. Stand behind a sturdy chair with feet slightly apart, holding on for balance. Breathe in slowly. 
  2. Breathe out and slowly lift one leg out to the side. Keep your back straight and your toes facing forward. The leg you are standing on should be slightly bent. 
  3. Hold position for 1 second. 
  4. Breathe in as you slowly lower your leg.
  5. Repeat 10 to 15 times. 
  6. Repeat 10 to 15 times with other leg. 
  7. Repeat 10 to 15 more times with each leg.
MORE ADVANCED BALANCE EXERCISES

Yoga standing balance poses are difficult because they require leg strength and upper body flexibility in addition to the ability to balance on one leg. Balancing poses also require core strength, so you will also be working the abdominals with the series.





 - © Barry Stone

1. Awkward Chair 

1.  Bend the knees until the thighs are almost parallel to the floor.
2. Keep the butt low.
3. Bring the arms up towards the ceiling.
4. Bring a slight back bend into the upper back.
5. Hold 5-10 breaths
Beginners: Work on bring the thighs closer and closer to parallel to the floor.
Advanced: Try this variation: Bring the hands into a prayer position at the heart. Twist to the right side, bringing the left elbow outside the right knee. Stay low in the pose and keep the knees pressing together. Come back to center and then do the left side.
 - © Barry Stone

2. Eagle Pose

1. Shift your weight onto the left leg.
2. Bend the right leg, lifting the foot from the floor and cross your right thigh over your left.
3. Hook the right foot around the left calf.
4. Bring the arms out in front.
5. Cross the left arm over the right and bring the palms to touch.
6. Lift the elbows while keeping the shoulders sliding down the back.
7. Hold 5-10 breaths.
8. Repeat on the other side.
Beginners: If you have trouble with the balance, rest your backside on a wall. If you can't hook the lifted foot around the calf, put a block under the foot instead.
Advanced: Start to come into a forward bend, bringing the elbows in front of the knees. Bring the thumbs to your third eye.
 - © Barry Stone

3. Tree Pose - 

1. Come to a standing pose
2. Feel your weight equally on all four corners of both feet.
3. Begin to shift the weight over to the right foot, lifting the left foot off the floor.
4. Bend the left knee, bringing the sole of the left foot high onto the inner right thigh.
5. Press the foot into the thigh and the thigh back into the foot.
6. Try not to let the right hip jut out. Keep both hips squared towards the front.
7. Focus on something that doesn't move to help you keep your balance.
8. Repeat the move while standing on the left foot.
Beginners: If you cannot bring the left foot high inside the right thigh, bring it lower on the right leg -- but be careful to avoid placing the left foot directly on the right knee.
Use the wall for balance if necessary.
Advanced: Bring the arms up towards the ceiling with the palms touching. Open the arms out to side.
Try closing the eyes and see if you can stay balanced.

 - © Barry Stone

4. King Dancer Pose - Natarajasana

1. Shift your weight onto the right leg.

2. Bend the left knee and grasp the inside of the left foot with the left hand.

3. Start to bring the left foot and the right arm up toward the ceiling as you bring your torso forward.
4. Hold 5-10 breaths.
5. Repeat on the other side.
Beginners: Fix your gaze on something that doesn't move so that you don’t lose the balance.
Advanced: Go for the full version of this pose.
Shift your grasp on the raised foot so that your arm is coming straight up toward the ceiling with a bend at the elbow coming back towards the foot. This requires coming into a deeper backbend.
Once you have the foot grasped with one hand, move the other arm into a parallel position and take ahold of the same raised foot.
Balance and deepen the backbend.

 - © Barry Stone

5. Warrior III 

1. From Warrior I position, bring the hands onto your hips.
2. Bring your weight forward into your front foot as you gently kick up your back leg.
3. At the same time, bring the torso forward until it is parallel to the floor.
4. Keep the neck relaxed, as if it's the natural extension of the spine.
5. Keep both hips pointing toward the floor as you bring the back leg in line with your body.


6. Flex the raised foot and keep the muscles of the raised leg actively engaged.
7. Bring the arms back along your sides.
8. Repeat on the other side.
Beginners: Do the pose at the wall. You can either face the wall and bring your arms outstretched in front of you with your hands on the wall or turn around and bring the lifted back foot onto the wall.
Advanced: Try another arm variation. Bring the arms outstretched in front of you. 

So your challenge for this week is to attempt 5 different balance exercises each day that will help you to improve your balance. These exercises can be from the list above or others that you are familiar with. (And as in all exercise challenges you can only earn points 6 days of the week for a total of 30 challenge points) 




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