In last week’s class, we began on the floor with a strange of stretches to open out, and lengthen the sides of the body. We came onto all fours for some flowing cat/puppy/dog and updog moves.

We then worked on the stages of camel (a kneeling backbend), and then a sequence of standing balances. We can balance in a range of ways: a static balance such as tree requires focus and strong feet and ankles – it also requires us to lengthen up along the spine to engage the inner core which improves stability.

Moving dynamically from one balance to another  e.g. tree to knee hugs and raises asks a little more of our brains in terms of coordination and recovery when we shift the centre of gravity.

Try these simple balances first

Simple standing balance can challenge students of any age and at any level of yoga. Standing first in Tadasana, mountain pose, and then lifting the heels off the floor, not only improves balance but strengthens the muscles that are directly involved in maintaining stability while we run and walk.

Lifting up on the balls of the feel immediately changes the base of support, making this base smaller and balancing harder. We can work on this in different ways, some harder than others:

  1. Heel raises: Inhale – lift the heel up, Exhale – bring the heels down. This is the most obvious, straight forward way to challenge the balance and strengthen the ankles.

  2. Three-stage heel lifts: Inhale – lift the heels up a bit, Exhale bring the heels down. Inhale – lift the heels up a bit more, Exhale bring the heels down. Inhale – lift the heels up as high as you can, Exhale bring the heels down. This action gradually builds up the challenge and gives the students confidence to progress.

  3. Half-way heel raises: Inhale – lift the heels up, Exhale – bring them half-way down, Inhale lift back up, Exhale – bring the heels all the way down. This version is the most challenging of the three and requires more concentration.

Add a strength exercise - side leg raises

  • Stand behind a sturdy chair with feet slightly apart, holding on for balance if and when you need to
  • Breathe out and slowly lift one leg out to the side
  • Hold position for 1 second
  • Breathe in as you slowly lower your leg
  • Repeat 10 to 15 times
  • Repeat 10 to 15 times with other leg