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Standing balance postures are an essential element in any well rounded Asana practice.
These postures offer the mind an opportunity to improve focus as you tone the entire body. Working on your balance teaches the body how to hold, transfer and distribute weight. One of the things people tend to overlook about balancing is that losing your balance helps the body learn how to balance, but only if you’re open to it. In some cases, environmental factors can contribute to a person feeling unsteady. This might be the type of flooring that you are practicing on, the thickness of your mat, the amount of light in the room as well as the availability of a focal point.
Flooring: You may have noticed you have an easier time balancing on hardwood floors, than on carpet. Practicing your balance postures on a firm floor helps you to evenly distribute the weight on the balancing leg and foot. Having a firm and supportive floor beneath you gives the foot something to press into which may help to stabilize the body.
Mat: Most yoga mats provide a feeling of connection to the floor beneath, however not everyone has a mat designed specifically for yoga.
A thicker fitness mat, while offering additional padding for the body, will lessen the contact between the body and the floor. If you find it hard to balance on the thick mat, I suggest stepping off of your mat and on to the bare floor since sometimes that direct contact can help you balance.
Light: Some yoga classes are practiced in rooms with very low lighting or might be lit by candle. While such a setting can be very conducive to relaxation, for many people it can make it difficult to balance. I advise practice in a well lit room or move closer to the source of light in the studio as it is usually easier to balance when you can see!
Focal Point: Having a distinct, non-moving focal point to gaze upon can do wonders for people who have a harder time with balance postures. The focal point can be anything from a post-it note or sticker on the wall to a Mandala image or painting that is at about eye level. In addition to providing focal points, I offer my students the option to turn away from the rest of the class towards the wall, as often times seeing the movement of others can pull your attention and challenge your ability to balance.
When you practice balance postures always keep in mind that there is nothing wrong and no stigma in utilizing a wall or chair until you have built up the strength and confidence to practice without assistance. Sometimes just knowing that the wall is there in case you need it can increase your confidence and help you balance, since balancing starts in your head.
Ashley Freeman is a registered yoga teacher with the Yoga Alliance. Certified in Raja Yoga, her experience includes private in-home lessons, workplace wellness programs, and group instruction teaching various class formats and yoga styles. Find her on Google+