by Angela Clark
Finding balance can be a challenge. As a matter of fact, our bodies are almost always searching for it. In a world where we are constantly in motion, many times asymmetrically, it’s our body’s job to constantly create stability for us. Then you go to yoga class and your teacher asks you to stand on one leg, actively and purposely making the body unstable.
What? Why would she do that?
Ironically (and because this is yoga maybe the better phrasing is, of course) making the body unstable, forcing it to engage and strengthen muscles used for balance, ultimately creates more stability.
So let’s look at what moves will help you balance in a pose like Tree Pose, aka Vrksasana.
Here are five poses to help find balance and stability in your Tree Pose:
Arms Up Pose with a block between the thighs
By gently squeezing the block between the inner thighs:
a) The legs are being trained how to “hug” towards the midline.
b) Hugging the block increases access to engaging the pelvic floor (also known as mula bandha) and the deeper, smaller abdominal muscles that will help you find balance.
c) The inner thighs begin to experience the feeling of something pressing against them (preparation for your foot!)
Holding the arms up will:
a) help to increase the body’s stamina
b) allow the transverse abdominus muscles to strongly engage and stabilize the lower back.
Not only does this pose help to give overall strength to the legs, it also:
a) Stretches the inner thighs, allowing for more external rotation at the hip. Tree Pose is great for strengthening hips.
b) Builds strength in the external rotators of the front leg.
c) Cultivates balance by placing your feet on a narrow line.
By raising and lowering the heels you will:
a) Strengthen the ankle joints.
b) Notice if you roll to the inner or outer seam of the foot. That will tell you where you are weak in the ankle joint.
Another asymmetrical standing balance pose high lunge will:
a) Strengthen the outer hip.
**Beware! The front (bent) knee will want to collapse inward towards the midline. Engage the outer hip to keep it lined up directly over the ankle.
b) Stretch and strengthen the hip flexors.
c) Work the hamstrings and glutes to keep your pelvis from tipping forward. Think of actions like “cat-ing the lower back” or “lengthening the tailbone towards the floor”.
An oldie but a goodie! This move will:
a) Strengthen the outer hip – both as a mover and a stabilizer.
b) Allow you to focus on “hugging” the transverse abdominus muscle back towards the spine, supporting the lower back.