Studies have shown that one of the best predictors of longevity is how long you can balance on one bare foot. It makes sense; when balance deteriorates, falls are more likely.
Falls are the leading cause of injury deaths among adults age 65 or older. And, the recovery from a hip fracture is so difficult that many seniors cannot live independently after this injury.
So, your retirement investments should not just be monetary. You should invest some time in improving your balance to ensure a long, healthy life. Both of these poses will help you do that.
Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)
Begin by stepping your feet approximately 4 feet apart. In the fullest expression of this pose, your legs and the line between the feet should form an equilateral triangle. But if you feel unstable, slightly decrease the distance between the feet until your balance improves.
Turn your right foot out (90 degrees) and your left foot in (45 degrees). The right thigh should be externally rotated, so the center of your right kneecap points out over your outer right foot.
Engage the quadriceps, so the knee caps are lifted. This is particularly important for preventing hyperextension of the knees in this pose. Maintain this action for the entire pose.
Inhale your arms out to your sides at shoulder height, exhale and relax the shoulders and fully extend your arms.
Inhale. As you exhale, allow your hips to swing to the left as you reach to the right. Lower your right hand to your right shin or a block and extend your left hand up toward the ceiling. Focus on moving out, not down (don’t worry about how close your right hand gets to the floor).
Keep your gaze straight ahead; do not worry about turning to look up toward the ceiling.
Here’s a nifty visual:
Once you are in the pose, experiment with the following points of alignment:
- 1. Make sure your side body is in a straight line and not rounded in a “C” shape. Lower your ribs toward the floor if you notice you are sidebending in the torso (you may need to bring your right hand up higher on the leg). In the above video, notice how I dropped my ribs toward the floor at the end.
- 2. Rotate the belly upward. Resist the temptation to only turn the chest upward.
- 3. Close your eyes and take note of the weight distribution on each of your feet. Press downward with the inner ball and the outer heel of the right foot. Press downward with the inner ball and the center heel of the left foot.
Take several breaths in the pose before inhaling up and repeating on the left side.
Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)
To really improve your balance, practice half moon pose each time you practice triangle (which is ideally a few times a week).
If you are feeling unstable, temporarily practice this pose at a wall. Come back to the center of the room as you notice your balance improving.
Begin in an Utthita Trikonasana with the feet slightly closer together than normal.
Exhale as you bend the right knee and lower the right fingertips to the mat in front of the outside edge of your right foot.
Inhale. Then, on an out breath, shift your weight into the right foot; straighten the right leg while you lift the left leg up until it is parallel with the floor.
Reach up through the left arm and rotate your torso upward.
Here’s the visual:
After a few breaths (or seconds, if you feel wobbly), bend the right knee and lower the left foot back into triangle pose. Repeat on the left side.
Enjoy your journey in and out of this pose, and let go of a need to perfect it.
P.S. This post is part of a series on the basics of many of the most common poses. Look here for additional posts in this series.
How’s your balance? Do you enjoy these poses or avoid them? How easy is it for you to remain playful in poses you find challenging?