The Balanced Life

Balance. It’s something some people seem to find very easy, and others not at all. Small children often fall over as their centre of balance is changing constantly as they grow. As we age, balance becomes an increasing challenge.

Without becoming too complicated, we all have three balance points: the impetus balance point, sitting just underneath the breast bone; the centre of balance, sited just below the belly button, and the foot or feet we are standing on. In very simple terms, line these up, and you will be on balance.

That is easier said than done! Stand in front of a mirror, with feet slightly apart and weight equally into both feet. You should see that the impetus balance point is directly above the centre of balance, and an imaginary line from there down to the floor, would fall equidistant between the feet. Now shift the weight onto one foot, and lift the other from the floor. To feel balanced, you should be able to trace a straight line from impetus balance point, through the centre of balance, down the inside of the standing leg.

If only it were that simple! We all have a tendency, to compensate for long-held habits. Maybe we tend to shift a hip out to the side, so we shift the opposite shoulder to compensate, and therefore balance. In the mirror, that’s going to give you a wonky line.

And this is only addressing balance in one plane. If you are unfortunate enough to over-balance, you are rarely standing on one leg, and you tend to fall forwards or backwards. Again we need to line up our balance points.

This time, stand with your feet about a hip-width distant. Keeping the body straight, like an ironing board, gently rock forwards over the toes, and back so the weight falls into the heels. You’ll feel your body compensating, stopping you falling over. Now make that rock smaller and smaller until you find a point in the middle where everything feels comfortable.

What you should feel is that as you rock forwards, your impetus balance point is very slightly ahead of the centre of balance. As you rock back, the centre of balance pulls you back. It’s minute, but it’s there. To maintain a balanced standing posture, think about sending the impetus balance point forwards a tiny bit, and the centre of balance back a tiny bit. Or to put it another way, pull the tummy in and lift the chest – a common instruction in exercise and dance classes.

There is one other consideration: the third balance point – the foot or feet. So many of us have bad habits when it comes to using our feet.  We roll inwards or outwards, or don’t use the arch of the foot. So one final exercise:  standing on both feet, scrunch your toes, and then relax the toes. As you scrunch you should feel the arch of the foot engage. Now, if you’re doing standing exercises, aim for a small scrunch of the toes (about 20%). By engaging the arch of the foot, you should find balance is a little easier.

The problem is you have to think about all of this as well as the exercise or activity you are supposed to be doing at the same time!

Please don’t think this is it when it comes to balance. There are lots more considerations to take into account, but these will give you a good start. A good Pilates class will introduce you to more ways to improve your balance. And with balance, comes more confidence with everyday activities.

Enjoy a balanced life!

Photo: woodleywonderworks on Flickr