“Body control at its simplest is the ability to perform an action with precision and accuracy, along with a sensation of ease, with no wasted energy.” Jarlo, GMB Fitness
Balance is at the core of every aspect of riding—from cornering, to getting on top of your pedal strokes, generating power and speed, nailing tricks, avoiding injury and trying to stay rubber-side down when things gets loose!
It’s also an integral part of yoga. We challenge our balance to improve body control and make our movements precise, accurate and efficient. The aim is to make it all look effortless. There are plenty of opportunities to fall over, but luckily, the stakes are not so high.
The BALANCE series is arguably the most challenging of all 5 disciplines. The workouts require a skilful combination of alignment, strength and control, both in the held poses and in the smooth transition between postures.
3 TYPES OF BALANCING POSES
There are 3 ways that we can train balance in yoga. You will find a full list of poses here.
- One-legged balancing poses, like Tree and Warrior 3, that build stability in the ankles, knees, hips and core.
- Arm balances, including Side Plank and Crow, that require significant core and upper body strength.
- Twists, including Revolved Side Angle and Twisting Half Moon, that require a high level of flexibility and coordination.
This is where the magic happens.
You have motion detectors in your feet that pick up subtle movements as your balance shifts. Practicing barefoot enhances the effectiveness of these mechanoreceptors, making your movements more accurate and precise. It also strengthens your feet, ankles, lower legs and hips.
When you’re standing in Mountain pose, distribute your weight evenly between 3 points—the base of your big toe, the base of your little toe and the middle of your heel—not pronating (rolling in) or supinating (rolling out). This is harder than it sounds but crucial for the more advanced postures.
THE BENEFITS OF BALANCE TRAINING
- Balance training, especially barefoot, strengthens the feet, ankles, knees, legs and hips.
- Balance training builds core stability in the abs, lower back, obliques, hips and pelvis.
- Balance training improves muscular endurance through long isometric contractions.
- Balance training enhances body awareness and proprioception (the sense of knowing where you body is in space).
- Balance training improves body control—precision, accuracy and efficiency of movement.
- Balance training improves coordination—both hand/foot-eye and between muscle groups.
- Balance training increases agility, speed and power.
- Balance training improves posture.
- Balance training enhances concentration and focus.
- Balance training reduces susceptibility to injury.
- Balance training builds determination and perseverance.
- Balance training quiets the mind.
BALANCE TRAINING AND THE BRAIN
Balancing sequences that challenge your centre of gravity not only train physical skills including strength, proprioception and agility, but also have significant neurological benefits.
- Balance training strengthens networks in the brain that control mental efficiency—improving concentration, focus and alertness.
- Balance training enhances coordination and agility by improving neuromuscular communication.
- Balance training improves the ability of muscles and cells to react quickly and precisely.
- Balance training improves the integration of sensorimotor control from visual, proprioceptive, vestibular and motor inputs.
- Balance poses demand full concentration and the dropping of extraneous thoughts which quiets the mind.
- Balance training requires determination and perseverance which builds mental resilience.
- Balance training increases your confidence to try more difficult poses and take on new challenges.
BALANCE TRAINING TIPS
- Fix your gaze on a point that isn’t moving to help you maintain your balance.
- Set your foundation—positioning, alignment and muscular engagement are all key here.
- Seal your lips and breathe deeply in and out through your nose.
- Try to put aside distracting thoughts and bring your full attention to the sequence.
- Aim for stillness in the poses and smooth, fluid transitions between postures. Try to make it look easy.
- Observe the subtle micro-adjustments that you unconsciously make to maintain your balance as this will enhance your body awareness.
- Don’t be discouraged if you fall over—just recover your balance and try to get back into the pose.
- Remember that balance is a complex skill that requires consistent practice.
- Even if you struggle with some poses initially, keep practicing them to speed up the signals in your brain that make your movements more accurate and precise.
- As your mastery of balance improves, challenge yourself to try harder and more complicated sequences.
WHO SHOULD DO THE BALANCE SERIES?
This is the hardest and most fun of all the series. It’s just as challenging for your flexibility and core strength, so experiment with introducing at least one dedicated balance session into your training each week and see how it affects your riding.