When you fall, whether it’s falling in your daily life or falling out of a yoga pose, quick reaction time is important to preventing injuries. When your body has the capacity for agility and flexibility, it allows you to respond quickly enough to catch yourself mid-fall without tweaking or hurting yourself. While it can hurt to fall at any age and activity level, the motor workings of balance, speed, flexibility, coordination, power, and agility are essential for daily living.
Falls don’t typically happen when you’re standing still, but when you are moving, transitioning, or adjusting. The key to building balance and coordination in order to prevent injury from falling is in more effective transitions and developing power.
Studies have shown that the more activated the toes are in standing poses, the greater the lower leg muscle activity. This targets the primary balance muscles. The result is that strong ankles and toes lead to stronger lower body muscles, thereby increasing balance and preventing falls. So how does yoga help build strength for balance? Here is a sequence of 6 poses that can get you started in building better balance.
As with all my yoga sequences, we begin by moving with awareness. For balance, it is particularly important to move with awareness through transitions.
Begin with your feet parallel. Lift and spread your toes to activate the muscles in your lower legs. Create a very slight bend in your knees and lift the kneecaps to engage your quadriceps. Contract your lower abdominal muscle to level your pelvis and your upper abdominal muscle to draw your ribs in. Lengthen your side waist and draw your upper arm bones back.
From Mountain Pose, bend your knees over your ankles, and keep weight equally distributed on your feet. Engage your lower abdominal muscles, as you reach your arms up and pull your arm bones back.
From Chair Pose, move into Tree Pose on the right side. Shift your weight into your left foot, lifting your right foot off the floor. Keep your left leg straight but don't lock the knee. Lift the right foot to your ankle, calf, or thigh (above or below the knee). Focus your gaze on something that doesn't move to help you keep your balance.
Take 5 to 10 breaths, then lower your right foot to the floor and do the other side.
Downward-Facing Dog Pose
Come onto the floor on your hands and knees. Set your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Spread your palms, index fingers parallel or slightly turned out, and turn your toes under.
Draw your shoulders away from your ears and lift your sitting bones high. Straighten your knees but be sure not to lock them. Roll the upper thighs inward slightly.
From Down Dog, step forward with your right foot into a Lunge with your back knee lifted. Right knee bent over your ankle. Reach arms up overhead alongside your ears. Be careful not to overarch the lower back. Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor and reach back through your left heel. Then exhale, release the torso to the right thigh, sweep your hands back onto the floor, and, with another exhale, step your right foot back and return to Down Dog. Hold for a few breaths and repeat with the left foot forward for the same length of time.
Lying on your back with knees bent, cross your right ankle over the left knee. Reach through your legs to grab either your left shin or the back of your left thigh, using your right arm as leverage to push your right leg forward. Hold for 5 breaths and switch sides. This pose opens the hip joints, reducing knee pain, improving posture and strengthening the back to support better balance and agility.
Balance, agility, functional movement, and coordination, are fundamental for daily life, no matter your age.
Fall for yoga all over again with this short sequence that can help boost balance and agility. Reduce your risk of fall and injury and share the pose that makes you fall for yoga all over again.