Balancing Act: Try These Six Yoga Poses for Better Balance

Liz Merritt
May 15, 2017

If you’re over 50, take a minute and give yourself a quick test. Yes, right now. Let’s see if yoga poses for better balance might be in your future.

Stand up and lift one of your feet off the ground. Now time how long you can hold this position. If you are unable to stand on one foot for a full 60 seconds, you’re not alone.

According to a study published in 2016 by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America, people in their 50s standing on one foot averaged 45 seconds; for those in their 60s, it was 40 seconds, 27 seconds for those in their 70s, and just 12 seconds for participants over 80.

Functional Living

Maintaining good balance as we age is vital. Having good balance means having the ability to control and maintain the position of your body while you are moving or being still.

This helps with athletic activity, certainly, but good balance is vital for everyday functions like walking smoothly, rising from a chair or getting out of a vehicle, climbing stairs and bending over without falling. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of adults over 65 fall each year.

Use It Or Lose It

As with so many things in life, balance falls under the category of “use it or lose it.” A great way to improve balance and coordination is to learn some simple yoga poses that you can practice daily to strengthen muscles, sharpen your focus and reinforce the messages between your brain and body about your position in space and the pull of gravity, keeping you upright and moving forward.

Yoga Poses for Better Balance

Here are six yoga poses that will help build a healthy sense of balance. Take your time, stay focused on your breath to maintain calm, build the pose from the ground up, feeling the feet first, then the legs, torso, arms and head, and don’t give up even if you think you’re not “good” at the poses at first.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are new to these poses, stay close to a wall or a sturdy chair to reach out to for support until you build up your strength and balance through regular practice.

1) Tree Pose (Vrksasana)

yoga poses for better balance

Tree Pose

Shift weight onto the right foot from standing position. Bend the left knee and place the sole of the foot as high as you comfortably can on the inner right leg, being careful to avoid the right knee area – stay above or below the knee to avoid injury.

Use the hamstring and calf muscle of the left leg to keep the left foot pressing into the leg and pulling the left knee out to the side.

For an added challenge, raise the arms overhead, palms facing in, shoulders relaxed. Hold five breaths. Repeat on other side.

2) High Lunge, Crescent Variation (Anganeyasana)

yoga for better balance

High Lunge

Starting in a runner’s lunge on the right side, extend arms forward parallel with the ears, and keep the shoulder blades down on the back as you rise up, reaching the arms upward, palms facing inwards.

Front knee should be directly over the foot, thigh parallel to the floor. Stay on the ball of the back foot and keep the back knee lifting. Hips should be even.

Hold for five breaths, release and switch sides.

3) Standing Extended Big Toe (Utthita Hasta Padangustasana)

yoga for better balance

Standing Extended Big Toe Pose

Place hands on the hips, relaxing the shoulders. Shift weight onto the right foot. Lift the left leg, straight out in front. Grasp the big toe with the first two fingers of your left hand and extend the foot out to the left side, as straight as possible, keeping the chest lifted and the standing leg straight.

A variation of the pose is to keep the knee bent, grasp the knee with the left hand as you open the leg to the left, keeping the foot flexed. Hold for five breaths, release and repeat on the other side.

4) Half Moon (Ardha Chandrasana)

yoga for better balance

Half Moon Pose

From a forward fold, shift your weight onto the left foot. Keeping the left hand on the floor or on a yoga block, stack the hips open to the front of your body as you extend the right leg until it is parallel to the floor.

Extend the right arm toward the ceiling. You may gaze at the lifted right hand, but it can be easier to maintain your balance if you keep your gaze aimed at the floor.

Hold for five breaths and switch sides.

5) Lord of the Dance (Natarajasana)

yoga for better balance

Lord of the Dance Pose

Shift weight onto the left foot. Bend the left knee and reach back with the left hand to grasp the left foot or ankle.

Keeping the hips as parallel as possible, begin kicking back into the left hand with the foot. Use the momentum to raise the left arm in front of you. Feel the stretch in the right hip and thigh.

Hold for five breaths and switch sides.

6) Side Plank Pose (Vasisthasana)

yoga for better balance

Side Plank Pose

Although this is not a standing pose, it increases strength and steadiness and builds a strong core, which is vital to maintaining balance. Start in a high plank “pushup” pose. Shift weight onto the left hand. Pressing into the ground, shift to the outer edge of the left foot.

Align the entire body into one long diagonal line from heels to crown, keeping the hips lifted and stacked, pressing onto the outer edge of the flexed left foot, feet stacked, right arm raised towards the ceiling.

If stacking the flexed feet is difficult, try this variation.  Bend the left knee and place it on the ground, pressing into the left hand and the inner right foot. Keep hips raised. For more of a challenge, press into the outer edge of the left foot and lift the right leg several inches. Keep the right leg parallel or place it in a tree position against the inner left leg as in pose number one.

Hold for five breaths and switch sides.

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