How to Balance in Yoga Poses

Four Methods:Using Eye FocusUsing Deep BreathingUsing Proper Body AlignmentUsing Yoga Props and Partner Yoga

Many yoga poses require balance and focus, from arm balances like Crow Pose to standing poses like Tree Pose. Beginning yoga practitioners and even more advanced practitioners can struggle with maintaining balance in a pose, especially if they do not feel they have a natural sense of balance. By using eye focusing techniques and deep breathing, you can improve your ability to remain still and balanced in yoga poses. You can also properly align your body in poses and use yoga props like yoga blocks or yoga straps to improve your balance.

Method 1
Using Eye Focus

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    Understand the purpose of eye focus, or drishti, in yoga. Ancient yogis developed the technique of drishti by noting that when you are in a pose, your attention usually follows where you place your eyes or your gaze. When you fix your gaze or drishti on a certain, single point, your mind can block out distractions or external objects and you can be fully present in a pose. Focusing your drishti can allow your mind to go into a deep state of concentration, thereby allowing you to remain still and calm. There eight specific drishtis, or eye focus points, in yoga. Each drishti is suggested for different yoga poses to enhance your focus and balance.[1]
    • Nasagrai Drishti: This is when you focus your gaze at the tip of your nose. Doing Nasagrai Drishti when you are in Upward Facing Dog or Standing Forward Fold pose can help you maintain proper alignment and balance.
    • Angusta Ma Dyai Drishti: This is when you focus your eyes on your thumbs, such as in Warrior I Pose or Eagle Pose.
    • Nabi Chakra Drishti: This is when you fix your gaze at your navel, such as in Downward Facing Dog.
    • Pahayoragrai Drishti: This is when you gaze at your toes, such as in seated forward bends or any standing twist poses.
    • Hastagrai Drishti: This is when you gaze at your hands, such as in Triangle Pose and Warrior II Pose.
    • Parva Drishti: This is when you focus your eyes to one side, such as in a seated spinal twist.
    • Urdhva Drishti: This is when you gaze upwards, towards the sky or ceiling. This drishti is used in Warrior Side Angle Pose, Balancing Half Moon, and Prayer Twist.
    • Naitrayohmadya Drishti: This is when your gaze comes from your third eye or the middle of your forehead, rather than your eyes. This drishti is used in Fish Pose, Upward Forward Fold Pose, and Reverse Warrior II Pose.
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    Practice eye focus in standing yoga poses. It is important that when you focus your drishti in a yoga pose, you do not strain your eyes. Keep your eye muscles relaxed and your gaze soft. You can try to focus your gaze when in standing yoga postures that require balance, such as Warrior Pose, Triangle Pose, and Mountain Pose.[2]
    • In Warrior Pose and Triangle Pose, your drishti should be focused on your hand, known as Hastagrai Drishti. In Warrior Pose, this means focusing your gaze on the hand in front of you and in Triangle Pose, this means focusing your gaze upward, at the hand that is pointed towards the ceiling.
    • In Mountain Pose, you should keep your drishti straight ahead at an unmoving spot in front of you.
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    Try to maintain your drishti in balancing yoga postures. When you are in balancing yoga postures like Tree Pose, Half Moon Pose, and Dancer Pose, it can help to keep your drishti focused on a specific part of your body or on an unmoving spot in front of you. As well, when you are in arm balancing poses like Crow Pose, Side Plank Pose, and Four Limbed Staff Pose, your drishti or gazing point is very important, as you need to be calm and focused in these poses to remain balanced in them.[3]
    • In Tree Pose, your drishti should be fixed on an unmoving spot in front of you or up towards your hands, also known as Hastagrai Drishti.
    • In Half Moon Pose and Dancer Pose, your drishti should be focused towards the ceiling, also known as Urdhva Drishti.
    • In arm balances like Crow Pose or Four Limbed Staff Pose, your gaze should be fixed on an unmoving spot just ahead of you.

Method 2
Using Deep Breathing

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    Be aware of the benefits of deep breathing techniques. In yoga, deep breathing is essential to a strong practice. Whenever you are practicing yoga, you should also be practicing deep, conscious breathing to get the full benefit of the postures. Deep breathing is referred to as Pranayama in yoga, which translates to “life force control”.[4]
    • There are numerous physical, mental, and emotional benefits to practicing Pranayama. Deep breathing will ensure all your vital organs, including your brain, are getting the oxygen they need. It will also nourishes your muscles and organs and can help your body to rid itself of toxins.
    • As well, Pranayama has been shown to improve mental concentration and reduce stress. When you are practicing Pranayama as you do yoga, you are that much closer to entering a meditative state. Maintaining focus on your breathing can also help you to maintain your balance during your yoga practice.
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    Understand how to practice deep breathing. To do Pranayama, you will need to activate your breath in your diaphragm and focus on having full inhales and exhales through your nose.[5][6]
    • Start in a comfortable cross legged position. Put your hands on your diaphragm, just below your ribs. Inhale slowly through your nose, breathing from your abdominal area. Feel your diaphragm expand as you inhale and try to make a whooshing sound.
    • Inhale deeply for a count of four.
    • Exhale slowly through your nose to the count of four. Feel your diaphragm contract as you exhale. Make a whooshing sound as you exhale through your nose. Imagine you are trying to fog up a mirror in front of you with your breath.
    • Pause once your lungs are empty at the end of your exhale. Repeat the breathing cycle again. Breathe in and out through your nose. Make a whooshing sound as you breathe in and out. You should feel your diaphragm expand and contract as you breathe.
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    Focus on deep breathing throughout your yoga practice. The mantra in yoga is often: “one breath, one movement”. This means that each time you move in yoga, you should be breathing in or breathing out. Timing your yoga practice to your breath will ensure you are always breathing properly when you are in a pose and you are focusing on your breath and your movement, nothing else.[7]
    • Try timing a sun salutation to your breath so you can practice deep breathing as you do yoga. Breath in as you raise your arms up in Mountain Pose, and then breath out as you dive forward into a Standing Forward Fold. You should then inhale as you look in front of your toes and straighten your spine and then exhale as you place your feet behind you and lower yourself down in Plank Pose.
    • Inhale as you rise up into Upward Facing Dog and exhale as you move back into Downward Facing Dog. Inhale as you bend your knees and exhale as you step your feet forward so they are together at the top of your mat. Inhale as you look forward and straighten your spine and exhale as you fold down into a Standing Forward Fold. Inhale as you rise up back into Mountain Pose and exhale as you end the sun salutation in Standing Prayer Pose.
    • Once you feel comfortable timing your breath to the movements in a sun salutation, extend your deep breathing to standing poses and balancing poses. Make sure you always breath in as you lift your body and breath out as you lower your body. When you hold balancing postures, you should maintain an even breathing cycle to ensure you are focused and calm.

Method 3
Using Proper Body Alignment

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    Check your alignment in standing poses. To improve your balance in standing poses, you should ensure your body is aligned properly. Stacking your body so your shoulders and hips are in line with your feet will help you to maintain an even center of gravity and feel grounded.[8]
    • When you are in any standing poses, you should always begin with your feet hip distance apart and your toes spread wide on your mat. If you cannot spread your toes, bend down and use your fingers to manually push them apart so there is space between them. You confine your feet to shoes and socks all day, so they may not be used to stretching apart.
    • Note where your weight is distributed when you are standing straight. Make sure the weight is equal on your feet and avoid putting your full weight into your heels on into the balls of your feet. Try to lift the arches on your feet so your feet are active and the muscles in your feet are working.
    • From your feet, move up your body, activating each muscle. Make sure your leg muscles are activated, as well as your abdominal and core muscles. Try to tuck your tailbone towards the ground so your hips are square and level with your shoulders. Having even weight distribution and activated muscles when you are in standing postures will help you to maintain your center of gravity and feel you are on solid ground.
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    Note your alignment in balancing poses. When you are in balancing postures like Tree Pose and Big Toe Pose, your alignment is essential to maintaining your balance. You should make sure you have a firm grounding in your standing leg and your hips are level as you go into either pose. Putting weight in your standing leg will ensure you have a solid foundation in the pose.[9]
    • As well, when doing arm balance poses like Crow Pose and Four Limbed Staff Pose, it is very important that your alignment is correct. Rather than spread your toes apart, you should spread your fingers apart and make sure your weight is distributed evenly on your hands. You should press your palm to the ground so your hands are rooted in the ground. This will give you a solid foundation when you balance on your arms in yoga poses.
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    Make sure you have proper alignment in seated postures. Though you likely will not lose your balance easily in seated postures, you can deepen your yoga practice by making sure your foundation is strong when in seated postures like Seated Twist or Seated Forward Fold.[10]
    • Do this by connecting your sitz bones with the ground or with your mat. You will need to pull the flesh from under your butt and tilt your pelvis forward so you can feel your sitz bones on the ground. This will ensure you have the correct alignment when going into seated folds or twists and you do not have unequal weight distribution on either side of your body.

Method 4
Using Yoga Props and Partner Yoga

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    Use a yoga block to help you stay balanced. You can buy yoga blocks are your local yoga studio, online, or at sporting goods stores. These blocks are often made of cork or foam and can be very useful for beginner yogis who want to work on improving their balance, flexibility, and alignment.[11]
    • Think of the yoga block as a support in your practice that you can use in balancing postures to deepen your stance in the pose or to help you remain grounded in the pose. You can use yoga blocks when doing Half Moon Pose, for example, by placing your bottom hand on the block to give you extra support and to help you maintain proper alignment.
    • You can also use yoga blocks when forward folding or twisting to help improve your flexibility and allow you to deepen your stretch without having to worry about falling or slipping.
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    Try using a yoga strap to maintain your balance, especially in standing poses. Yoga straps are great for improving your flexibility and providing support when you want to go deeper in a pose. You can buy a yoga strap at your local yoga studio or at sporting goods stores. Most yoga straps are made of woven material that is made to withstand tugging and pulling.[12]
    • Standing balance postures like Dancer Pose can be difficult for people with limited flexibility. You can enhance this pose by wrapping a yoga strap around your lifted foot and holding the strap in your opposite hand. This will allow you to access the full expression of the pose without straining yourself or worrying about being thrown off balance.
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    Do partner yoga to improve your balance. If you are interested in practicing yoga with others and are looking for an interactive way to improve your balance and flexibility, consider taking a partner yoga class. Partner yoga is a good way to practice certain poses with someone else acting as a safety net or a support. You can do many poses, from Wheel Pose to Forward Fold, with a partner in a partner yoga class, without the fear of falling over or losing your balance.
    • If you are a more experienced practitioner, you can try an AcroYoga class, where you use the support of a partner, as well as a spotter, to balance on the body of your partner. AcroYoga is considered more advanced and should always be done in the safety of a class with a certified yoga instructor.[13]

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Categories: Yoga