Updated: Mar 21
Many times we don't think about the importance of balance, unless you happen to be a profession athlete, dancer, or have reached a certain age.
Our awareness of the position and movement of our bodies is called proprioception.
Proprioception is the sense of self-movement and body position. It is sometimes described as the "sixth sense".
In humans, the awareness of the position of our body, is provided by proprioceptors, which are located in our muscle spindles, tendons and the fibrous membrane in joint capsules. It is distinguished from exteroception, by which one perceives the outside world, and interoception, by which one perceives pain, hunger, etc., and the movement of internal organs.
The brain integrates information from proprioception and from the vestibular system which is, one portion of the labyrinth of the inner ear, into its overall sense of body position, movement, and acceleration.
Proprioception is what allows us to learn to walk in complete darkness without losing balance. During the learning of any new skill, sport, art, playing a musical instrument or yoga, it is usually necessary to become familiar with some proprioceptive tasks specific to that activity. Without the appropriate integration of proprioceptive input, an artist would not be able to brush paint onto a canvas without looking at their hand as they move the brush over the canvas; a guitarist would not be able to play their guitar without looking at their hands, it would be impossible to drive a car because a we would not be able to steer or use the pedals while looking at the road ahead; we could not type without looking or perform ballet; and we would not even be able to walk without watching where we put our feet.
Balance exercises improves our ability to control and stabilize our body's position. Balancing types of exercise are particularly important for older adults. As we age, our ability to know where we are in space, or proprioception, gets worse, which contributes to a decline in balance. But...here’s the GREAT news... balance exercises can benefit all of us at any age.
Examples of balance exercises include:
Shifting your weight from side to side.
Standing on one foot, as in doing tree pose
Walking heel to toe, and pretend you are on a tight rope
You can even try incorporating balance exercises into your daily routine. Try standing on one foot while brushing your teeth, or waiting inline at the store. Have fun with improving your proprioception, put on your favorite song, and dance around the room.
Benefits of doing balance exercise include:
Reduces the risk of injuries, such as knee and ankle injuries
How much balance exercise do you need?
There's no limit to how much balance training you can do safely, you can practice every day, or even several times a day.
How can you avoid injury when doing balance exercise?
The main risk of doing balance exercises is that you might fall. Make sure you have something close to you to hold on to just incase you start to fall. If you use equipment such as a stability board, you should make sure you are on a flat, stable and non-slippery surface.
Start with an easy balance exercise, like shifting your weight from side to side or standing on one foot for a few seconds, and gradually make your sessions more challenging — for example, by increasing the time you spend on one foot. Also, it’s a great idea to start on a stable surface and in a single position before adding any movements or balance exercise equipment.
For more instruction on what yoga poses and exercises help prep our bodies to function better in balance poses, and exploring new ways to practice your balance to improve your proprioception, join my online Zoom yoga classes - Monday, Wednesday and Saturdays at 8:30am California time.