I’ve just finished reading the book Yoga for Healthy Aging. There’s one whole chapter on balance! It explains what affects balance, how balance changes with age and how yoga can help.
The authors kept emphasising how important it was to try balancing and not worry about falling. In fact they specifically said:
“Whatever your current level, you should practice poses that challenge your balance with a nonjudgmental attitude, as negative self-talk can sabotage you….Keep in mind that even if you do lose your balance, just by practicing your balance poses you are still benefiting tremendously, so practicing, rather than staying upright, is your real aim.”
The reality is, we fall in life – whether that’s tripping over a shoe you left on the floor, slipping in the shower or sliding on a muddy walking track. If you move, you’re likely to trip, slip and fall.
Falling isn’t the issue. How you fall is. So learning to lose your balance can help you learn to control how you fall or ‘catch yourself’ before you hit the ground. The goal is to be able to correct your movement to stay upright, or fall safely so you don’t get seriously injured.
Take a fellow tramper. We were hurrying down a track to make up for lost time. The track suddenly steepened, but we didn’t take much notice as we were rushed and talking. Suddenly he snagged the front of his boot on a tree root. He lost his balance and started to fall forward.
The natural response would have been to put his hands down and try to catch himself before face planting into the ground. While not a bad option, the ground was steep and rocky – he likely would have seriously injured his hands, wrists and possibly head (not to mention landing on me!). Instead, in a split second, he jumped a metre downhill past me. He landed on his feet fully upright with not a scratch.
It’s a great example that while it’s important to have good balance, you also need agility and coordination to respond when you lose that balance.
So next time we’re balancing in a yoga class and you find your arms waving about, toes touch the floor or hips shifting side to side – rest assured that you are not only working on balance but agility as well!