We all need balance in our lives, literally, but we kind of ignore balance, until our first yoga class when we find out we can’t stand on one leg for longer than 5 seconds. Another wake-up call is when we start falling, tripping and stumbling around. Falls can happen at any-time after the age of 40, but falls usually become more widespread after the age of 60, with one in three people over 65 falling at least once a year. As yoga teachers we understand that one of the most frustrating things when you first start yoga, is learning to balance, but if we just did all the stuff you’re good at, then you’d miss half the benefits of a full body yoga class.
Add some heat, sweat, slippy hands and legs to your yoga and balancing becomes tough; finding stillness on one leg may seem impossible….but it’s not! Like anything, it just takes time and there is more to it than just standing on one leg. Balance involves the integration of various sensory and motor systems, including vision (focus for direction and motion) and the inner ear (constantly monitoring which way is up and down…good in frozen cartwheel). Also, knowing where your body is in space is very important – in fitness we call this body awareness and for some it comes naturally, especially if they’ve spent their younger years playing sport, doing gymnastics or dancing.
To stay steady you also need good muscle strength and reaction time, so if you are de-conditioned after 20 years of sitting down at a desk with not much activity, your balance will be affected: you need to first build up strength in the muscles, the core and the glutes. If any of the systems mentioned above are not functioning properly, you can lose your balance, even whilst just walking or standing up: sometimes it’s a simple trip, but other falls may cause major fractures. Being able to react, rebound and stabilise when you trip or fall is a huge bonus as you age and will help you to avoid surgery, costly rehab and time away from doing what you love doing.
Power, which is a combination of reaction time and strength, is something which needs to be worked on consistently too, as we tend to lose 20 percent of our power and 10 percent of our strength per decade. If you don’t practice moving your limbs in several directions and testing your strength and balance, you may not react fast enough when you need them to catch you when you fall.
Mix up your training, create a balanced routine that incorporates power, strength, balance, flexibility and endurance, which may seem like a lot to cover, but things like TRX, Power Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Fierce Grace Yoga all include the above ‘to-do list’. There are no limits to what you can do, if you have a great foundation and train intelligently. If you are new to yoga, trx or hot core, take time to get your body adapted to this new workload and workout…take it slowly because if you feel beaten up after every workout or beaten down, you’ll quit. Think about your body as a finely tuned machine that likes variation and know that as you age, cross training is more likely to minimize future aches, pains and overuse injuries, so listen to your body and if something is too tight or weak, it will cause you to wobble.