If you’ve ever experienced dizziness, vertigo, or any other form of imbalance, you know it can be a bit unnerving and disconcerting. As Erica Schukies writes in her article, Importance of Physical Balance, “We don’t notice our sense of balance until it’s not working like it should.”
She goes on to say, “Simply explained, a good sense of balance allows us to recognize our position relative to other objects around us, including the surface on which we are standing, walking, or running. According to Caroline DeGroot, a physical therapist and the vestibular program manager at Athletico Physical Therapy, balance is an important aspect in carrying out both simple and complex movements.”
For the most part, we take physical balance for granted. Muscles, tendons, and ligaments send signals to the brain as we move and the brain then tells the muscles how to react to maintain balance and how to move in a smooth and coordinated fashion. We can become off balance through the effects of things like medications, drugs, and alcohol, but we can also become off balance as we age due to deterioration of the vestibular system in the inner ear.
Ms. Schukies continues, “As we age, balance becomes more of an issue as our critical systems begin to weaken. According to Dr. Nathan Wei, director of the Arthritis Treatment Center in Frederick, Md., the aging process is typically associated with visual impairment, inner ear problems, cerebellar (posterior brain) issues, muscle weakness or peripheral neuropathy. And unfortunately for the elderly population, these systems all play a critical role in your body’s ability to stay vertical.”
According to physio-pedia.com, input from the Somatosensory / Proprioceptive System, the Vestibular System, and the Visual System affect the body’s equilibrium and balance, with balance being classified as either Static Balance (fixed posture) or Dynamic Balance (balance during motion). Both types of balance require power from the muscles in the body.
“Yoga does an excellent job of strengthening and stretching muscles essential for balance,” states health.harvard.edu. Yoga poses “challenge static balance, the ability to stand in one spot without swaying, and dynamic balance, the ability to anticipate and react to changes as you move. Successfully managing these tasks requires you to keep your center of gravity poised over a base of support.”
Kiersten Mooney, E-RYT 500, and cofounder of greenmonkey® partnered with the University of Miami to study the muscle utilization patterns of yoga poses. She reported in yogajournal.com, “We learned which muscles are actually being used and how active they are during each pose. For example, in electromyography (EMG) study, which records electrical activity produced by skeletal muscles, the more activated the toes in standing poses, the greater the lower leg muscle activity, therefore targeting the primary balance muscles.”
“Balance training can help build muscular endurance, increase flexibility, and, of course, improve balance,” Terecita “Ti” Blair, the 2017 SilverSneakers Instructor of the Year says (as reported by Brittany Risher on silversneakers.com). “It helps build confidence and quicken reaction time, as well as offers an opportunity to practice mindfulness and body awareness. You learn to breathe through something difficult or challenging, maintaining balance even when your world turns upside down.”
Yoga helps develop a mind body connection in addition to developing muscles. Balance requires the ability to both hold on and let go, something that improves with mind body connection. Let us help you find a series of yoga poses to not only improve your physical balance but improve your overall well-being. Contact us for suggested poses and/or for information on our numerous class opportunities. Our email address is Info@SunriseYoga.net.