Injury Prevention: Balance in Space

Most yoga students experience a difference between their left and right sides, especially during standing balance postures. Sage Rountree offers some suggestions for balancing things out and keeping injuries at bay.
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Most yoga students experience a difference between their left and right sides, especially during standing balance postures. Sage Rountree offers some suggestions for balancing things out and keeping injuries at bay.

In your yoga practice, you may have noticed that your balance is better on one side than the other. Maybe your Tree Pose (Vrksasana) is steady and grounded on the right leg, but when you stand on the left leg, you feel like a tree in a windstorm. This imbalance likely results from how you use your body, especially in your sport. Do you always unclip your left leg from your bike pedal and use it for balance while you are stopped, then push down hard with the right leg to resume rolling again? Do you always run on a canted road facing traffic? Do you always plant your left foot and kick with your right? Do you practice a style of yoga that always leads poses with the right leg? These patterns will affect your balance. Improving your balance in space by developing your proprioception and strengthening your lower legs and hips will help you prevent acute injuries from falls.

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Here's a simple self-test to see how well you can balance in space. Stand on one leg, with the other foot lifted just off the ground, facing a clock with a second hand. Look at the time, then close your eyes. How long can you balance on this first leg before you fall out or fatigue? Repeat on the other side, and compare the two sides.

Don't be surprised to find the exercise very difficult, especially on the second side. We naturally play up our strengths, and when you are allowed to choose which leg to start on, you will probably choose your stronger leg.

If both sides are challenging, include more single-leg standing balance poses in your practice, and regularly repeat this self-test as an exercise to help you develop balance in space.

If you notice that one leg is tougher to balance on than the other, pay special attention to the less-stable side. Start your single-leg standing balance poses with that side, move to the second, then repeat a second time on the first side. Include some extra time standing on that weaker side over the course of the day: brushing your teeth, standing in line, preparing your dinner. The better balanced the two sides are, and the better balance you have in space, the longer you'll be able to enjoy your sport and your yoga practice injury-free.