Almost every student feels unsteady when they first start to practice balance postures like Tree, Warrior III, Bird of Paradise, and Standing Half Bound Garland pose. While the foundation of any good balance starts in Tadasana, or mountain pose, there are some yoga tricks to help you really nail balance poses the next time you try.
Here are 10 ways to nail balance yoga poses:
Knees slightly bent
Instead of locking your knees and feeling tight in your lower body, make sure that your knees are slightly bent and your quadriceps are engaged. You will actually use more muscles this way (and therefore build more strength) and be able to endure in balance postures longer as your practice continues. No matter what standing balance posture you are practicing, recruiting more muscle and not shearing the bones by locking them together ensures that you have good blood flow to the muscles you are trying to make stronger.
Use your feet like hands
Think of every toe as an active part of your balance posture. One of the main reasons yoga is practiced barefoot is because we use the toes as a dynamic expression of the body in its entirety. Use of the toes includes spreading them apart so that they cover more surface area, and gripping the mat gently with your toes, just as you would grasp something with your hands.
Use your breath
Balance poses seem easy when you are watching someone practice them, but when done correctly they take lots of energy. Use your breath to be sure you are delivering lots of oxygen to the muscles, ligaments and tendons, and saturating your body with prana, too.
Calm Your Mind
A busy mind means a busy body. This is exactly the opposite state of mind you will need to maintain balance in a posture. One effective way of calming the mind is by using a drishti, or gazing point. Making your mind single-pointed will help you nail a balance pose.
Start small and work your way up
Some balance poses, like Svarga Dvijasana (Bird of Paradise) take lots of core strength, flexibility and focus all at once. You can work up to the final rendition of the posture by breaking the pose into smaller segments. If the bind is too difficult or the extension of the leg is too challenging, try to just come up with the leg and hold the posture on one leg and add those elements later on.
Focus on alignment
Even the simplest asana like Tadasana can take months to truly practice correctly. Make sure that you feel relaxed with your torso and spine aligned, your shoulders are relaxing towards your tailbone your chin isn’t sticking out or overly tucked, and that your belly is drawn in without holding your breath. These foundational keys will inform your future practice.
Give yourself a break
All advanced poses don’t come right away. Make sure that you work at your own pace, and while you shouldn’t ever give up, be willing to take your foot to the floor, for example, in Tree pose on the days you feel really unsteady.
Most of balance is psychological more than physical
It may seem odd, but your psychological state has a lot to do with how well you balance. If you were running around like a crazy person all day trying to multi-task your life away, then getting to a calm, clear place on your mat for balance can be challenging – even if it is exactly what you need.
Practice. Practice. Practice
All the most fluid, balanced and steady yogis have been at it for years. Don’t give up after a few months of trying a posture because you fall out of it. Realize that the people who can nail those poses have really worked at it.
Keep your sense of humor
While laser-like focus is great in practicing balance asana, you have to laugh it off sometimes. Sometimes it will feel like you are trying to balance on rocking pirate ship after having drunk a fifth of vodka. Just be willing to laugh on those days, and just know you are getting better all the time.
Check YOME’s videos for practicing balance with yoga.