How many times do you think, “If I could just have 20 minutes without distractions, then I could finally finish this project/paper/brief/email?” The truth is that we can get a lot done if we didn’t have to worry about traffic, making dinner, weekend plans, and how to navigate politics at work. The reality is that we have to do those things, and more.
Standing balance poses are a perfect example of finding calm and focus in the movement of life. Even while standing in a simple pose such as Vrkasana (tree pose), one must focus and concentrate on not falling or putting the aerial leg down on the floor. Most people sway and move a little while in the pose, but by doing so, they are forced to re-focus their attention and energy on not falling and on maintaining balance.
It is in this focus/re-focus seesaw that one is able to balance in the pose. Harder poses such a dancer pose or standing hand-to-foot pose, really emphasize the need to find a grounding point to center yourself and your focus. It is not the calm that comes from trying not to fall, but instead embracing the small movements and shifts in your focus that makes balance poses so beneficial. In addition to developing your center and calm, these poses build your coordination, balance and posture.
Here are a few balance poses to practice.
Tree pose can be practiced with the aerial (non-standing leg) in several positions. The easiest position is to keep the elevated leg resting on the ankle of the standing leg. For example balance your left toes on the floor while resting your left heel against your right ankle.
The next level is to rest the left foot on the inside of the right calf. The advanced level is to put the aerial leg on the inner thigh of the standing leg (as seen below). The most important part is to NOT rest the aerial foot on the knee! Do not put the aerial foot on the knee. The foot needs to be above or below the knee to make sure that you do not injure the standing knee. The arms can be in prayer pose at the chest or prayer pose above the head or opened up above the head (pictured below).
Standing Hand-to-Toe Pose
This pose requires a lot of concentration, strength and some flexibility.
Starting with the aerial foot against the thigh (in tree pose), grab the aerial foot with the same side hand. Slowly extend the leg straight in front of you, continuing to hold on to your foot. If you still have your balance, you can turn your leg to the side. The key in this pose is to keep your hips level. The hip of your standing leg will try and drift upwards, so actively work to keep your weight and center of gravity in the midline so that your hips stay at the same height. Try your best to keep your back straight and do not hunch over the aerial leg.
This pose is best approached from a standing figure 4 pose. Slowly bend the standing leg until your forearms can rest on your thighs and then slowly continue to bend your standing leg until it is completely bent and you are balancing on your toes. The key in this pose is to keep your back straight and your gaze on a fixed point in front of you. It is common to keep your hands in Namaste or prayer pose to help maintain your balance.
If it is your first time practicing balance poses, make sure you practice close to a wall or a ballet bar, so that you have something to grab if you find yourself falling. Do not get frustrated; instead try to find calm and focus in the sway.
By Melynda Barnes, M.D. - Co-Founder, Facial Plastic Surgeon, and Yogi
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