This month, we are focusing on BALANCE. Many people think of balance training as something like standing on one leg for as long as they can. This is a great way to test your balance, and can of course be a useful tool. However, there is much more to balance training. Balance begins in the brain, and then uses signals from your eyes, ears, muscles, and joints to help you maintain your balance. That means all of these pieces are important, and in class we work as many as we can--particularly the muscles, joints, and BRAIN!
Keeping your brain healthy and sharp by utilizing exercises that improve our NEUROPLASTICITY is the most important aspect of maintaining good balance. Neuroplasticity is how the brain rewires itself and makes new neural connections, and many mind/body exercises help to improve and maintain it. Any time we challenge our coordination, memory, or agility in class, we are taking steps to improve our balance as well.
Strong muscles are the next key component for balance. Core strength helps to maintain an upright posture and stabilizes your center of gravity. Lower body strength helps to carry our body across various surface types, and helps you to react quickly to keep from losing your balance. Upper body strength helps with postural control. We work all of these areas in class, and not just in our TONING routines. Every time we twist our body (core), tap our toes (ankles and calves), or reach our arm overhead (shoulders and arms), we are working on the muscles needed to maintain posture, stability, and balance.
In order to improve your balance, you need to challenge it! If every time you do a balance drill it feels easy, you are not improving your balance, you are only maintaining it. Throughout class, especially during times when we are specifically focused on balance, you should be challenging yourself to the point where about 1 out of 5 times, you feel like you are “losing your balance.” As you are finding ways to make balance challenges more or less difficult, remember all of the things that help with our balance. Eyes are a big one! Try shifting your gaze up, down, or to the side for an extra challenge. Alternatively, focus on one fixed point if you need to find your balance. Try shifting your center of gravity by moving your arms or legs in a non-symmetrical way for an extra challenge, or double check that you are upright and even if you need to find your balance. Of course, we never want to push ourselves TOO far to the point of absolute failure. No falling!!!