Most of us take our ability to balance for granted. Yet if we were to completely lose that ability the effect would be devastating.
Balance is an immensely complex system that enables us to know where our bodies are in space, to maintain a desired position and execute specific movements.
Many factors contribute to our ability to balance well...
Eyes and Ears
The eyes are how people best sense and judge the world around them and the inner ear aids balance and spatial orientation.
The muscles and joints work as the proprioceptive system (to sense where the body is in space).
Ageing often leads to a loss of balance (and when I say ‘ageing’ I mean from your 20’s!) and this in turn, increases your risk of falls. But it’s a downward spiral especially amongst the elderly because this tendency to lose balance will often result in an overall reduction in their level of physical activity because they are reluctant to MOVE. They move less; the strength and function of their muscles and joints deteriorate...
“To keep your balance you must keep moving” A. Einstein
So balance is therefore relevant to each and every one of us and Pilates can provide hugely useful tools to maintain and improve balance.
In my classes I always try to incorporate exercises that directly affect the ability to balance.
Be a flamingo....!
Try balancing on one leg (bending the standing leg slightly at the knee will help if you are wobbly, as will focusing on a stationary point in front of you). Closing your eyes makes it much harder. Most people are “better” on one leg than the other – single leg exercises can help to strengthen the weaker side.
Also exercises that will help us to keep our body mechanics working optimally to support our overall ability to maintain balance are very important.
Release your body and build your strength!
Spiky ball/tennis ball foot rolling – massage to contribute to healthy foot function
Core work e.g. 'Knee floats' are great for helping provide the body with good stability
Breathe in to prepare
Breathe out to soften the ribs, engage abdominals and pelvic floor and float one foot off the floor until the knee is aligned over the hip
Breathe in to hold
Breathe out to deeply connect again and send the leg back down
NB Focus on standing leg and pelvis staying really still and stable
Double Knee Floats and toe taps (one leg moving at a time)