Yoga balances can involve balancing on one foot; balancing on the hands, or the head, or a combination of all three. Whatever balance you take, remember to draw in your core; feel grounded through the feet and hands and then reach for the sky. Practice and focus will help you to improve your posture and poise and concentration. And you can tone your core and the limbs that support you. You don’t have to be on your mat either. Try balancing on one foot while you cook, and don’t forget to change the legs over.
Tree Pose Vrksasana
Tree Pose, Vrksasana, is not only a physical balance, emphasizing alignment of the head, spine and pelvis; but a posture that can help you achieve balance for your mind and soul; and improve your focus and concentration. It is also the perfect posture to tone not only your legs but core as well. It improves posture and poise, increases the range of movement in the hips, strengthens the ankles, and the muscles of the legs, back and chest.
Hold for 5 breaths to start with. Focus on something ahead of you that is still, your driti point. Feel grounded, send roots down into the earth, from your feet; and feel tall, like a tree. Draw the body in and up. Feel the heart lifting, feel yourself growing taller. If you feel balanced, raise your arms above your head, touching palms together. The lifted leg should rest above or below the knee, but not on the knee, or perhaps in half lotus. Build up to 12 to 24 breaths, and repeat on the other leg. Remember the body is still, the breath is deep and even; and hopefully the mind will start to settle. Enjoy the stillness and grounded nature of this posture, as you connect with the Earth beneath you.
Crow Pose Bakasana
Crow, Bakasana, is one of the first arm balances yoga students usually try. You need a little arm strength, and relatively strong and flexible wrists; but the key is to find your centre of gravity and learn how to distribute your weight on the hands and the back of the upper arms, whilst maintaining a strong core.
The hands are grounded and the fingers are spread out, so really feel your palms and each and every part of the pads of every finger in the floor. The hands are shoulder width apart. As you squat down bend the arms, The outside edges of the upper arms become a shelf where you can rest your knees. Place one knee on the same upper arm/ the shelf you have made. Then lift the other knee and place it on the other upper arm, as you find your centre of gravity and shift you weight forward. Feel balanced and strong and place your big toes together, pointing your feet. Take around 5 breaths and build up to around 12.
This pose strengthens the wrists and arms, the back body and the abdominal area, strengthening the core. Keep your focus forwards and rock in and out as you introduce weight to your hands. If a little cautious, use a cushion ahead of you in case you fall too far forwards.
The headstand, Sirsasana, is considered to be one of the most important yoga poses, and is sometimes known as the ‘king of all yoga poses’, because of its many benefits. In hatha yoga the weight is not on the head, but on the hands and forearms. and again you need to find your centre and use your core to maintain this steady, strong inversion and balance. Remember to start this practice with a teacher, until you feel confident. You may also need a wall to support you. And if you have a neck or back injury, you may need to avoid this posture entirely.
As an inversion this posture is energising, as you really get your circulation going, as you are upside down. It helps to take weight out of your precious feet and can relieve water retention. It is said to help to reduce facial wrinkles, if done regularly. It is a cooling posture, so is useful at the end of a vigorous practice and before taking savasana, relaxation pose. It increases the flow of blood to your brain and so can improve your brain function. It improves blood flow to the eyes, head and scalp, promoting healthy eye function, and hair growth. Hanging upside down is also good for your digestive system and can help relieve blockages and shift prana and gases in the body. It can also help you to develop strong core muscles, as you balance, and can improve your posture and poise.
To really challenge yourself try a 90 degree angle between the legs and body, and breathe deeply. Hold for 12 breaths and work up to a couple of minutes.