We’ve all been there -- Sweating with the best of our intentions when the yoga instructor guides us into that pose. You know the one I’m talking about…. That’s right, the muscle-shaking, intense and oh-so-dreaded balancing asana (Half-Moon or Crow Pose, anyone?). But, guess what? All that uncomfortable shaking and fear of instability is completely normal. In fact, it’s actually improving your balance. Each time you shake and overcome that fear of toppling over (and trust me, we all do the occasional topple), you’re building muscle strength and mental focus. But, if you’re looking for ways to get more comfortable and soaring proud faster, check out these three best practices to get you off the ground.
1. Set Your Drishti
“Drishti” is the Sanskrit word for a focused gaze. Yogis use their Drishti to develop concentration and calm the mind. Each pose, or asana, has a particular Drishti. For example, when in Dancer’s Pose, the eyes are set at a forward gaze. When your eyes are settled on a spot, they allow your mind to tunnel into inner peace and tune out the distractions around you, resulting in a calm and steady balance.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Modify
A lot of yogis, myself included, have let their ego get the better of them by attempting an asana that was more advanced than their body is ready for. But, when on the mat, the best thing you can do for yourself is listen to your body. Modifying poses with props ensures proper alignment and the full-benefit of the pose. Over time, your body will adjust and eventually you’ll be able to asana sans-prop. For example, in Half-Moon Pose, place a yoga block (on its highest side) a few inches in front of your weight-bearing leg. Then, place your weight-bearing hand on the block and prepare to soar! Notice how much more open your chest becomes and how much easier it is to set your Drishti. For an even more assisted Half-Moon, use the block modification, but place the foot that’s in the air flush against a wall. It gives you a much more steady and alert realization of the proper alignment!
3. Strengthen, Strengthen, Strengthen
Just as in any other aspect of life, practice makes perfect. So, building your muscle strength through repetition sets you up with a powerful foundation for balancing. Here are the three main muscle areas:
● Arms - In arm balances like Crow Pose, arm strength is key. To build it, practice asanas like Chaturanga Dandasana and Downward Dog push-ups.
● Core - Whether you’re doing an arm or standing balance, your core is always working. With each asana you practice, core strength is built. But, you can amplify its power with asanas like High Plank or Boat.
● Legs - In standing poses, our legs are our foundation, like our roots planting into the ground to stabilize our trunks. Without stability, we cannot balance. Strengthen your legs with asanas like Chair, Warrior Series, or Goddess.
Continuing your balancing asana practice will not only help improve your physical strength, but your mental focus as well. Think about all of the things we face in our daily lives that require balance. We must balance our work with our play time, our friend-time with our family-time, what we eat or drink -- the list could go on. The great thing about practicing yoga is that we can take that stability learned in practice and bring it to real life situations. If your head is clear during a balancing asana, there’s no reason you can’t apply that to everyday life too. So, in more ways than one, improving your balancing practice will help you balance overall. Namaste, friends!