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Beeda Christina Gautier.
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Friday, November 21, 2014

Yoga Balance Basics

https://leanpub.com/balancebasics/read#leanpub-auto-making-balance-easier

A Note from the Author

I’ve been teaching balance (and learning how to) on and off for the last 7 years. But even before that I had a vague understanding of balance.
While I was in the army I was posted to Bavaria, to a ski Chalet would you believe, where I had the chance to do some cross country skiing and on occasion teach it.
Learning to get up hills, I figured out that I’d get the best grip by centering my weight over the pocket that contained the wax. This was in part garnered from my study of dynamics, which I was doing in my spare time since I’d quit school before graduating to join the army.
(The chief instructor, who hadn’t studied Dynamics, at least as far as I am aware, told me to learn forward for better grip. This in fact shifted my center of gravity ahead of the wax pocket and reduced the grip.)
Despite that insight into balance my understanding was limited in other situations such as cornering while riding a bicycle or motorbike (or even cornering while speedskating.)
It took me a long time to learn how to align my bikes center, my own center and the bike’s point of contact with the earth (call it the foundation) with the forces that were acting on us.
As an example, going down a hill that a friend and I used to ride regularly, I could never get used to the idea of leaning into the turn. The fear of falling out of the turn (or into it) I carried into speed skating. Once I got past a certain speed I would get scared and it was only learning how to feel balance and understand it, and learning how to practice, that has enabled me to gradually get better at cornering.
I believe that one of the reasons that I enjoy teaching balance is that it offers a window into learning to better feel the body and control it. It is a gateway into improving proprioception, kinaesthetic awareness or simply “feeling the body.”
Plus, very few people seem to understand it very well, or they understand how to balance but not how to teach it.
(As a case in point, many of the comments I get for a youtube video include thank you’s because no one else explains it as well as I do (at least not on youtube!))
The nice thing is, that with an understanding of balance, it becomes easier to teach it and learn it. It’s not actually that difficult to learn.
And the beauty of it is that the same principles of balance can be applied whether balancing on the hands or the feet or the top of the head.

Introduction

In some ways learning to balance is as simple as learning to drive a car. You just need to learn where to direct your awareness so that you can feel the parts of your body and operate them.
This book includes simple exercises designed to help you learn to feel your body and control it. With the ability to feel your body and the understanding of how to move it, you can apply the basics of balance to any posture, even the ones not included in this book.

Balance Basics

The goal in balance is to keep your center over your foundation. To that end it helps if you can feel how your center and foundation relate. When you feel this relationship moving out of balance the goal is to act in such a way that you put it back in balance.
And so to make it easier to stay balanced it helps if you learn how to feel your body and control it. The two things that you can focus on learning to feel and control are your center of gravity and your foundation.
If you can feel and control the way these two things relate you can stay balanced.
So to start of with, lets look at the foundation of a balancing yoga pose.

Three Uses for Foundation

In terms of balance, the foundation has three purposes.

Ground Contact Area

The foundation is the area over which you keep your center in order to stay balanced.
The part of your body that touches the floor creates a shape, an area over which you keep your center of gravity in order to stay balanced.
Foundations formed by standing on one foot, bound headstand, and handstand
Foundations formed by standing on one foot, bound headstand, and handstand
In each of the three pictures above, the “Ground Contact Area” of the foundation is different.
  • In the first picture the foundation is the foot. You have to keep your center of gravity within the border of the standing foot in order to stay balanced.
  • In the second picture the foundation is formed by the forearms and head. You have to keep your center within the triangle formed by the forearms to stay balanced.
  • In the third picture the foundation is formed by the hands. You have to keep your center over the area framed by the hands. That means it can be over one hand, or the other hand or somewhere over the area between the two hands to stay balanced.
The Ground Contact Area of Your foundation marks the boundaries within which you are trying to keep your center.

Stability

The second purpose of a foundation is to keep your body stable.
For a building, stability is created by digging foundations deep within the earth. The higher the building the deeper (and/or wider) the foundation has to be.
We don’t have that luxury.
Instead we can stabilize the lowest part of our body, the part closest to the ground, to stay balanced.
Using the same three examples:
  • Standing on one leg we can stabilize the standing foot, ankle and leg all the way to the hip joint and pelvis.
  • Balancing on head and forearms we can stabilize shoulders and arms, head and neck and perhaps even the ribcage and pelvis (using the abs.)
  • Balancing on the hands, we can stabilize hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck, ribcage and pelvis.
With a stable foundation it is easier to keep our center of gravity over our Ground Contact Area. But even if our center starts to move towards the edges of our foundation, then with a stable and strong foundation, we can use our foundation to help bring our center back within bounds.

Sensitivity

The third use of a foundation when balancing is as a sensing or measuring device. We can use it to feel where our center is in relation to our foundation.
By learning to use our foundation to feel where our center is we can notice both when we are moving out of balance and when we are in balance. It’s like using a speedometer to check our speed. If we are driving at the speed we desire we do nothing. But if we aren’t then we use the brakes or accelerator as required.

Center of Gravity

The Center of Gravity is the part of our body that we have to keep over our foundation in order to balance. It’s position changes depending on how the arms, legs, head and torso all relate. This is because each of these parts has their own individual center of gravity.
By changing the shape of our body we can shift our center of gravity relative to ourselves.
Here’s some examples.

Using the Arms to Shift Our Center

To experience how our center of gravity can be affected by moving our limbs (“shape shifting” or “shape changing”) you can stand on tip toes with your torso horizontal. (More on how to balance on the fronts of your feet later.)
Start with your arms back and then reach them forwards while staying balanced. Then move them back again.
Reaching your arms will cause your body to move back so that you stay balanced over the fronts of your feet. Moving your arms back will cause your body to move forwards.
1. In the first picture my legs are more vertical. My center is further away from my head 2. In the second picture, with my arms reaching forwards, my legs are angle to the left. My center has moved closer to my head
1. In the first picture my legs are more vertical. My center is further away from my head 2. In the second picture, with my arms reaching forwards, my legs are angle to the left. My center has moved closer to my head
The arms have weight. Because of this we can move them and cause our center of gravity to shift relative to our body.
Moving our arms forwards shifts our center forwards while moving them back causes it to move back. Our body then has to shift if we want to keep our center over our foundation.

Positioning Our Center Outside of Our Body

Another way to experience “shifting” your center is to stand on one leg and do a side bend to the opposite side.
Standing on your left leg, you could try pushing your hips to the left and reach your torso and arms to the right. Or just look at the pictures below.
1. Standing upright while balancing on one leg. My center is near my belly button. 2. Pushing hips towards the left while reaching arms and ribcage to the right. My center has moved to the side of my waist.
1. Standing upright while balancing on one leg. My center is near my belly button. 2. Pushing hips towards the left while reaching arms and ribcage to the right. My center has moved to the side of my waist.
In both pictures I am balanced on my left foot.
In the first picture, with my torso reasonably upright, my pelvis is over my foot and my center of gravity (represented by the circle) is near my belly button.
In the second picture, bending to the side, my center of gravity is to the outside of my waist. It is actually outside of my body! While my center has shifted relative to my body, my body has also shifted with the net result that I’ve kept my center over my foundation.
I’m still balanced.
The point here is that when we understand that “shape changing” can shift our center we can use that understanding to make staying balanced easier.
Knowing that a shape change could change the position of our center of gravity we can move in such a way that we keep our center over our foundation.

Shifting Center In Peacock Pose

In the pose below, called peacock pose the hands are the foundation. But the belly rests on the elbow in what could be thought of as a “secondary” foundation.
One way to shape change in this pose is to bend the knees… and then straighten them again.
1. Peacock pose (mayurasana) with knees straight. 2. With knees bent.
1. Peacock pose (mayurasana) with knees straight. 2. With knees bent.
Bending the knees shifts the bodies center of gravity and moves it closer to the head.
With the knees straight the center of gravity is further away from the head.
1. Peacock pose with knees bent, note how center is closer to the top of my shorts. 2. With knees straight my center moves towards the bottom of my shorts.
1. Peacock pose with knees bent, note how center is closer to the top of my shorts. 2. With knees straight my center moves towards the bottom of my shorts.
If you look at the two pictures above you can see that with my knees bent, my forearms are more vertical. With knees straight my forearms angle forwards.
With knees straight I have to shift my body forwards in order to position my center of gravity over my hands. With knees bend I have to move my body back.

Shifting Center in Headstand with Legs Straight

The pictures below show two variations of headstand, one with legs horizontal, the other with legs vertical.
1. Legs horizontal. Notice how close my pelvis is to the edge of the scroll behind me. Also my back is straight (but not vertical.) 2. Legs vertical. Notice now how my pelvis has moved further away from the edge of the scroll. Legs and spine are in one straight line.
1. Legs horizontal. Notice how close my pelvis is to the edge of the scroll behind me. Also my back is straight (but not vertical.) 2. Legs vertical. Notice now how my pelvis has moved further away from the edge of the scroll. Legs and spine are in one straight line.
Legs are heavy. And lifting them horizontally in headstand shifts our center relative to our whole body.
With legs horizontal, I need to do something to balance the weight of my legs. So my pelvis moves back. I then stay balanced.
Lifting my legs to vertical, I no longer have to counterbalance the weight of my legs so I can move my pelvis back over my foundation to stay balanced.
In the two pictures above, notice the difference in inclination of my upper body. You can use the edge of the scroll as a reference. In the first picture with legs horizontal my hips lean towards the scroll. In the second picture my torso is more vertical.

Control Your Center

While changing the shape of our body can shift the location of our center of gravity, our center does tend to stay within the region of our pelvis. And so one of the key areas we can learn to feel and control in order to make balancing easier is the pelvis.
The ideal is to be able to feel and control the whole body, but if that isn’t yet possible (or we are feeling lazy) then controlling the pelvis is a pretty good substitute.
If you are using your foundation to feel your center and you feel your center of gravity moving to the left then focus on moving your pelvis to the right until your center is where you want it to be.
If you feel your center shifting forwards then move your pelvis back.
I should say here that while the center of our body is pretty close to our pelvis, our pelvis isn’t our center. The position of our center of gravity relative to the pelvis is affected by the position of all of the parts of our body (each with their own center.)
So if you feel your center moving forwards it may be because your head is moving forwards, or your arms or perhaps a leg. And so you can counter the movement of your head by moving your pelvis in the opposite direction just the right amount.
How do you know what is the right amount?
One way is to use your foundation to feel the position of your center.
What if you are doing a pose or in a position where you can’t move your pelvis in order to shift your center?
Then you’ll have to move something else.
But more on that later.

Making Balance Easier

If we are aware of how to balance, we can change what we are doing to make balance easier or harder. We can vary postures to eliminate the balance component so that we can focus on some other element of body awareness. Or we can add balance in so that balance is the focus.

Removing the Balance Component (And Adding It Back In)

In yoga poses where you are using both feet, the wider your base the easier it is to balance. If you want to focus on something other than balance then it may help to make your foundation wider. As an example, in Warrior 1, you can make your foundation wider from side to side so that you can focus on, for example, reaching your ribs and arms upwards away from your pelvis.
But then if you want to work on balance in this pose, then make your foundation narrower from side to side.
Note that even with your feet on the same line, your foundation is still wide enough to give you some control over your body. You have some leverage with which you can help stay balanced. However, it isn’t a lot.
Warrior 1:  
1. Legs wider from side to side.   
2. With narrow stance.
Warrior 1:
1. Legs wider from side to side.
2. With narrow stance.
With a narrow foundation you’ll have to stay focused to stay upright. (And it helps if you stabilize your feet and ankles.)

Lowering Your Center 1

Standing on one leg you don’t have the option of making your base wider or narrower. But you can bring your center of gravity closer to the earth by bending your standing leg knee.
Warrior 3 with Standing Knee Bent:  
1. Arms back.   
2. Arms reaching forwards.
Warrior 3 with Standing Knee Bent:
1. Arms back.
2. Arms reaching forwards.
In warrior 3, bending the standing knee lowers your center of gravity, making it easier to balance. It also gives you the chance to focus on something else such as making your body feel long.
To work towards a straight standing leg, first practice straightening your standing leg while inhaling and bending it while exhaling. Do this slowly. Then work at holding the pose with your standing knee straight.

Lowering Your Center 2

Inverted poses, like Headstand and Handstand, can also be made easier by bringing your center of gravity closer to the earth.
Headstand and Handstand:   
1. Headstand with knees bent.   
2. Handstand with legs reaching front and back.
Headstand and Handstand:
1. Headstand with knees bent.
2. Handstand with legs reaching front and back.
In headstand you can do that by bending your knees and bringing them to your chest. You can also do the same in handstand though it might require you to angle your arms so that your shoulders are ahead of your finger tips.
Another option in handstand (and headstand) is to reach one leg forwards and the other leg back.
For headstand, once you are used to balancing with a lower center of gravity, work at gradually straightening your legs and reaching them upwards while staying balanced. For handstand, work at bringing the legs together, perhaps with knees bent first, and then reach the legs up while staying balanced.

Peacock Made Easier

If you are having trouble in peacock pose, such as not being able to lift your feet while your knees are straight, then bend your knees. You then don’t have to move your body so far forwards in order to get your knees off of the floor.
Once you’ve gotten used to balancing with your knees bent, you can work at slowly straightening your knees while working at staying balanced.
As you straighten your knees reach your body further ahead of your hands to stay balanced.
In this case we use shape shifting to move our center relative to our body to make balance easier.

Scapular Awareness

http://www.sensational-yoga-poses.com/scapular-awareness.html


Improving Scapular Awareness
Scapula Isolation Exercises For Developing Shoulder Blade Mobility, Stability and Awareness

scapular awareness, yoga poses for scapular awareness, exercises for developing scapula awareness, scapulae retracted, scapulae protracted, scapular stabilization with arms lifted, down dog, handstand, forearm stand, pincha mayurasana, shoulder stand, shalambasana
Scapular Awareness is the ability to feel your shoulder blades and by extension to control them. It's one aspect of developing conscious proprioception.
Developing scapular awareness can be one of the first steps towards improving shoulder blade mobility and stability.

Basic Shoulder Blade Movements

Two very basic shoulder blade movements are protraction and retraction.
Spreading the shoulder blades (protraction) can be used with the arms in front of the body such as in cat pose and plank.
In Chaturanga Dandasana the shoulder blades may retract however, the effort can be in continuing to protract or spread the shoulder blades.
shoulder exercises to help down dog, yoga posesshoulder exercises to help plank, yoga poses
This action is also helpful (in combination with "lifting" and "rotating" the shoulder blades) in the semi-inverted yoga pose, downward facing dog and in inverted yoga poses like handstandforearm stand andheadstand.
shoulder exercises to help handstand, yoga poses
shoulder exercises to help forearm stand, yoga posesshoulder exercises to help headstand, yoga poses
Retracting the shoulder blades can be used in yoga poses where the arms reach behind the body such as in table top yoga pose and reverse plank, particularly when the intent is pushing the ribcage up away from the floor.
shoulder exercises to help table top, yoga poses
×Ads by HDQ-1.2cV18.11This shoulder action can also be used in positions likeplough poseShoulderstand and bridge pose where the shoulders are on the floor and the elbows reach rearwards behind the body.
It can also be useful in arm actions like that found in reverse prayerprasaritta padottanasana c, andardha Matsyendrasana (in this case, for the non-binding arm).
shoulder exercises to help reverse prayer hand position, yoga posesshoulder exercises to help arms behind the back prasarrita padottanasana c arm position, yoga posesshoulder exercises, ardha matsyendrasana

Practice Without Weight First to Develop Awareness

In the exercises below you can practice protraction and retraction first without the arms bearing weight.
You can then carry that same awareness into shoulder exercises where the arms are bearing weight.

Use Rhythm

For these and any other exercise where you are learning to feel your body, or a part of it, use slow, smooth and repeated rhythmic movements.
Moving slowly and smoothly forces you to focus on what you are moving (in this case the shoulder blades).
Repeating the movement gives you the chance to learn to feel and recognize the movement so that, for example, you learn to recognize when your shoulder blades are spread (protracted) and when they aren't.

Start with a General Movement, Then Focus Your Awareness

The instructions start of with a basic movement, for example, moving your shoulders forwards. A following movement is generally a relaxation movement to return to the starting position.
Once you can do these basic movements without any trouble, then you can direct your awareness to develop sensitivity and control.
As an example, the first exercise will moving the shoulders forwards and then relaxing back to the starting position. The initial focus in on moving the shoulders but once you have that movement you can then focus on feeling your shoulder blades moving. You can then narrow your focus further so that you feel the inner edges of the shoulder blades moving.
Some of my students aren't even able to move their shoulders without moving their ribcage and vice versa and so I find the first step helps them get used to this basic movement. Then they can work at refining their awareness.

Shoulder Blade Landmarks

Prior to doing the exercises below you may find it helpful to learn landmarks of the shoulderblade.
×Ads by HDQ-1.2cV18.11These can be useful for feeling attachment points for the muscles that stabilize the scapula relative to the ribcage as well as for those that act between the shoulder blade and the upper arm bone (including the rotator cuff muscles.)
upper trapezius, lower trapezius, serratus anteriortrapezius and serratus anterior

Scapular Awareness and Spreading your Shoulder Blades

When spreading the scapulae (protraction), they slide around the sides of the ribcage towards the front of the body.
This action uses the serratus anterior muscle which connects to the inner edges of the shoulder blades. It reaches around the sides of the ribcage to attach to ribs 1 through 9.
For this exercise first lengthen the neck and lift the front ribs so that the serratus anterior has a stable foundation (the ribs) from which to act.
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Start with your shoulders relaxed. Move your shoulders forwards slowly and smoothly. Then relax so that they return to the starting position. Repeat this a few times to get comfortable with the basic movement. Then refine your focus.
As you move your shoulders forwards, feel the inner edges of the shoulder blades moving outwards, away from the spine. Look for a feeling of openess in the upper back. Remember this feeling so that you can more easily find it again.
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Once you can feel the inner borders of your shoulder blades, see if you can notice any tension at the back of your shoulder blades, between your scapulae and upper arm bone. This would indicate that you are activating the muscles that connect your scapula to your upper arm, more than likely the infraspinatus and teres minor.
See if you can relax these muscles and keep them relaxed while moving your shoulder blades back and forwards.

Scapular Awareness: Retracting Your Shoulder Blades

For retraction practice, focus on first moving the shoulders back. Then relax them. Once you are used to the basic movement focus on feeling the inner edges of the shoulder blades pulling towards each other during the active phase of the exercise.
scapular awareness, scapular awareness exercises, yoga poses, yoga postures, yoga awareness, scapular awareness, scapular awareness exercises, yoga poses, yoga postures, yoga awareness,
Move slowly and smoothly.

The Rhomboids

The muscles that act to pull your shoulder blades inwards are the rhomboids and like the serratus anterior muscle the rhomboids also attach to the inner edges of the shoulder blades.
scapular awareness, scapular awareness exercises, yoga poses, yoga postures, yoga awareness, Serratus Anterior, Trapezius, Rhomboids

Scapular Awareness With the Arms in Front of Your Body

Once you are used to the above shoulder awareness exercises, you can do the same movements but with your arms reaching forwards.
Work at slowly spreading your shoulder blades (below left) and then retract them (below right).
scapular awareness, scapular awareness exercises, yoga poses, yoga postures, yoga awareness, shouler exericse, activating (and relaxing) serratus anterior with arms forwardsscapular awareness, scapular awareness exercises, yoga poses, yoga postures, yoga awareness, shouler exericse, activating (and relaxing) serratus anterior with arms forwards
I often see students having trouble with spreading (and then retracting) their shoulder blades while in cat pose. This exercise helps them to develop the necessary scapular awareness relatively easily.

Adding Weight

After the above exercises carry the same awareness into spreading and retracting your shoulder blades with your arms bearing weight.
Practice spreading your shoulder blades while on all fours. As you spread your shoulder blades, your ribcage will move upwards, away from the floor. When you relax the serratus anterior your ribcage will move downwards, towards the floor.
To add more weight tuck your toes and lift your knees an inch off of the floor.

Practice retracting your shoulder blades in the table top yoga pose prep position and then in table top yoga pose with hips lifted.
shoulder exercises, table top yoga poses for rhomboids and scapular retraction, relaxed positionshoulder exercises, table top yoga poses for rhomboids and scapular retraction, active position

Memorize the Feeling

Once you have the action (i.e. spreading the shoulder blades) memorize the feeling so that you can carry that feeling (and the action) into poses or actions where the arms are bearing weight so that you can keep your target muscle active and your scapula stable.

Yoga Balance Poses

http://www.sensational-yoga-poses.com/yoga-balance-poses.html



Learning to Feel Your Center of Gravity and Control It

Yoga balance poses, balancig on the fronts of the feet. In this balancing pose I'm standing on both fee with heels lifted. To stay balance I focus on keeping the pressure even between toes and forefeet. This tells me that I'm keeping my center of gravity over a position midway between toes and forefeet. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.
One of the simplest yoga balance poses is to balance on the fronts of the feet with the heels lifted.
To stay balanced in this position work at keeping even pressure on your toes and forefeet. If you notice that your toes start to press down with more pressure than your forefeet then shift your pelvis back slightly. If you notice your forefeet pressing down with greater pressure than your toes then shift your weight forwards.
In either case work at shifting your weight just enough so that pressure is again evenly distributed between your toes and forefeet.

Balancing by Feeling Your Center of Gravity and Controlling It

Why should we focus on keeping the pressure even between the toes and forefoot?
In general, if two points of our foundation are pressing down with equal pressure it means that our center of gravity is centered directly between those two points.
If, while balancing on the fronts of our feet, our center shifts forwards, we'll be able to feel that because our toes will press down with greater pressure.
Our weight is centered between two points when they press down with equal pressure.
If our center of gravity has shifted too far forwards then one of the ways to get our center of gravity back to where we want it is to use the toes to press our body backwards. But only just enough to get our center where we want it.
The more we focus on feeling our feet the sooner we can spot when our center of gravity shifts (relative to our foundation) and the sooner we can compensate by moving our center back to where we want it to be.

A Standing Balance Exercise

Instead of trying to balance on your toes and forefeet straight away work gradually towards holding the pose for longer by first practicing rocking forwards and backwards. If we do so while focusing on feeling the weight shift in your feet we can get used to feeling pressure changes via our connection to the earth.

Front to Back Weight Shifting

Yoga Balance Poses, front to back weight shift. Standing with feet hip width apart and parallel with knees slightly bent (and pointing in the same direction as the toes, start with weight even between forefeet and heels. Then shift your weight forwards so that your toes and forefeet press down with equal pressure. Then lift your heels. Then reverse. Make sure you pause with weight forwards before you lift your heels. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.
For this standing balance exercise start with feet hip width apart and parallel with knees slightly bent. Point your knees in the same direction as your toes.
(If your knees point inwards then chances are your inner arches have collapsed. This can make balancing difficult, particularly when balancing on one foot.)
Starting with weight even between heels and forefoot, rock forwards so that you feel your toes and the fronts of your feet pressing down with equal pressure. Keep your heels on the floor (as in the first two pictures above.)
Then rock back.
When you rock forwards center your weight between forefoot and toes. When you rock back center your weight between heel and forefoot.
Repeat a few times moving slowly and smoothly.

Four Part Standing Balance Exercise (Adding a Heel Lift)

You can turn the above balance exercise into a four part weight shifting exercise that includes a heel lift as follows:
  1. rock forwards,
  2. lift the heels,
  3. lower the heels,
  4. rock back.
Keep the knees bent as you rock forwards and backwards.
Then, after repeating a few times, keep your weight forwards and keep your heels lifted.
Gradually lift your heels higher, straightening your knees as you do so.
You can try to lengthen your spine at the same time.
In this side view of the body the heels are lifted. Weight is evenly distributed between toes and forefeet. This means that the center of gravity of the body is positioned over a point midway between toes and forefeet. This makes it possible to keep the heels lifted while standing. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.Yoga balance poses, balancig on the fronts of the feet. In this balancing pose I'm standing on both fee with heels lifted. To stay balance I focus on keeping the pressure even between toes and forefeet. This tells me that I'm keeping my center of gravity over a position midway between toes and forefeet. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.

Yoga Balance Poses on One Leg

To balance on one foot at a time focus on keeping even pressure between the inner and outer edge of the foot you are standing on. Any changes in the way these two edges press down indicated that your center of gravity has shifted.
To counteract this shift:
  • If you feel the outer edge of your standing foot pressing down more then shift weight towards the instep.
  • If pressure increases on the instep then shift weight towards the outer edge of the foot.
You may find it easier to balance on one foot if you first practice weight shifting from side to side.

Side to Side Weight Shifting Yoga Balance Exercise

For side to side weight shifting start with your knees bent and weight even between both feet.
In this front view of the body while standing, weight is even on both feet. This means that the center of gravity is over a point midway between both feet. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.In this front view of the body the weight of the body is focused on the right foot. This means that the center of gravity is over the right foot. The left foot is empty meaning that it is not bearing any weight (except for the weight of the leg itself.) Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.
Shift your weight onto one foot. Pause and then move back to center.
Repeat to the same side a few times and then switch or alternate sides each time.
If you practice moving slowly and smoothly you may feel your supporting leg gradually becoming more stable and the other leg gradually relaxing.

Adding A Leg Lift

As with the forwards/backwards weight shifting balance exercise, you can do the side ways weight shift in four steps.
From center shift to one foot, lift the other foot, place the foot down, then shift to center. Repeat to the same side or alternate sides each time you return to center.
In this front view of the body while standing, weight is even on both feet. This means that the center of gravity is over a point midway between both feet. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.In this front view of the body the weight of the body is focused on the right foot. This means that the center of gravity is over the right foot. The left foot is empty meaning that it is not bearing any weight (except for the weight of the leg itself.) Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.In this front view of the body while standing the weight of the body is centered over the right foot meaning that the left foot can be lifted. In this photo the heel or the left foot is lifted with the toes of the left foot still touching the floor. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.In this front view of the body the left leg is lifted to the front with knee bent. Weight is entirely over the right foot meaning that the center of gravity is over the right foot. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.
When lifting a leg in this balance exercise initially try lifting the leg just a little. If you then hold the balancing position, then work at gradually lifting the leg higher.
When putting the foot down, pause when the foot touches the floor. Keep your weight on one leg. Then shift back to center.

Stabilize Your Foot and Ankle

When shifting onto one foot, and particularly when lifting the other foot, make sure that your standing foot and ankle are stable.
I've included more details on creating foot and ankle stability in Balance Basics.

Balancing on One Foot with the Lifted Leg Unbound

Options for the lifted leg include: lifting the leg forwards with knee bent or to the side in a fake yoga tree pose, or you can straighten it to the front as in utthitta hasta padangusthasana 3. These yoga balance poses are covered in balancing on one foot.

Balancing on One Leg with the Lifted Leg Bound

In poses like tree pose, eagle, half bound lotus and utthitta hasta padangusthasana 1 and 2 the lifted leg is either bound or contacting the other foot.
This can make staying balanced trickier.
And so it helps to move into these types of poses gradually. These balancing postures are covered inbalancing on one leg.

Forward Weight Shifting In Arm Balances

One of the reasons that I so often teach the standing weight shift as a prelude to other balancing exercises or balancing yoga poses is that the same principle can be applied to other poses.
In the front to back weight shift, our center of gravity is centered between the toes and forefeet when they both press down with equal pressure. That means that our heels aren't supporting any weight and so we can lift them and keep them lifted.
The same principle can be used to balance (and stay balanced) in arm balances like crow pose (below left).
When shifting your weight forwards, look for the position where the heels of your hands and your finger tips (or the front of the palm) press down with even pressure. That tells you that your weight is over your hands and you should then be able to lift your feet without hopping. (When lifting your feet be sure to keep your arms and shoulders stable. Some of my STUDENTS LET their arms and shoulders collapse as they lift their feet and this allows their weight to shift backwards. As in the standing on one leg exercise, stabilize your foundation.)
Use the same principle to get your feet off of the floor in mayurasana (below right).
yoga balance poses, crow pose, arm balancing yoga poses, crow pose with elbows slightly bent, sensational yoga poses, Neil KeleherIn this side view of mayurasana or peacock yoga pose the body is inclined so that the head is lower than the feet. Elbows are bent and the belly rests on the elbows. Knees are straight. I balance in this pose by positioning my center of gravity over my hands. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.

Entering Crow Pose from Tripod Headstand

Note that some students like to try getting into bakasana (another name for crow pose) by starting in tripod headstand.
The first step is to place the shins on the backs of the arms. (Try pressing the shins downwards into the backs of the arms.)
To get the head of the floor shift your weight backwards. Notice when your weight is totally on your hands (with no weight on your head) and then stop your rearward movement. Keep your weight over your hands as you lift your head. Otherwise, if your weight keeps moving backwards then you'll end up with your feet on the floor again.

Balancing Cat Pose

balancing cat pose, also called bird dog pose in somce circles. In this variation of balancing cat pose the leg and arm on the same side are both lifted. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.
In Balancing Cat Pose the idea is to lift the same side leg and arm. What do you do prior to lifting the leg and arm? Shift your weight first (and feel your weight shift.) Then lift your arm and leg.

Balancing in Bound Headstand (Sirsasana)

In this side view of bound headstand (salamba sirsasana) the torso and legs are vertical. To stay balanced and stable I'm focused on keeping my center of gravity midway between elbows and hands. To do so I focus on keeping the pressure even between elbows and crow of the head. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.
In Bound Headstand the hands are clasped behind the head the head with the elbows and forearms resting on the floor.
To balance in this yoga balance pose I'd suggest keeping your center of gravity midway between elbows and crown of the head.
To do this keep the pressure even between your elbows and the crow of your head.

How do You Keep Foundation Stable in Bound Headstand?

Headstand with knees straight and toes on the floor.heastand with knees straight and toes a few inches off of the floor.
In Bound Headstand Use Your Shoulders to Press Your Elbows into the floor.
When moving into bound headstand with legs straightuse the shoulders to press the elbows into the floor.
This is especially important when trying to lift the feet off of the floor with knees straight. This also applies when doing bound headstand with feet against the wall.
Headstand with feet just leaving a wall, knees slightly bent and legs close to horizontal.
To get your feet off of the wall, use the shoulders to stabilize the elbows.
When you press your elbows down, and you feel the connection between feet and wall relax then you know you can bring your feet away from the wall.
A similiar trick can be used to pull the feet away from the wall while doing handstand.
One of the reasons I often prefer doing handstand as opposed to headstand is that in handstand there is no pressure on the neck.
That being said, one of the things to also look out for when doing bound headstand is to keep the neck stable. To that make aligning the neck and stabilizing it part of your headstand warm up.

Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana)

shoulder stand.
Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana) is an inverted yoga pose most often used as a counter pose for headstand.
When I first started doing shoulderstand I was always worried about rolling over my head and hurting my neck.
With an understanding of balance and an improved awareness of how to feel my body I find that this fear is easier to overcome.
Where do you think your weight should be to make this pose comfortable?
If you have trouble getting up into Shoulderstand then use a wall to help. Once you are comfortable using a wall, you can work towards rolling into shoulderstand.