In this blog we explore why including a simple everyday balance challenge is essential for your brain and every day movements.
According to a recent report by the World Health Organization, (WHO), people losing their balance and falling is the second most common cause of accidental deaths worldwide.
A shocking statistic, but one that can be linked to a more sedentary, computer-based lifestyle. A YSS favorite, Dr Michael Mosley, refers to this in his new podcast series, ‘Just One Thing’. He says, ‘our balance is far worse now than it used to be. Having a more sedentary lifestyle comes at a cost - and that cost is a failure of balance’.
Which movement helps strengthen your balance and brain? See below for the answer 😊
Balancing Act. Science Fact
Balancing is something we do everyday and most of the time are not aware of it - until we lose it. We balance when we stand, sit, walk, run, jump ….in fact standing is the hardest thing for us humans to do.
YSS founder, Hayley Winter, talks about the art and science of balancing in Series 1 of our new Yoga Biomechanics Course. She says, ‘when we stand we are the least stable of creatures with the highest centre of gravity and the smallest base of support. Standing is a constant balancing act and one that has external forces impacting on the body's structure affecting our postural habits and everyday movements.
Gravity, plus lifestyle and conditioning overtime can contribute to poor postural habits and to how well we are able to balance.
In both yoga and in fitness training, essential balance techniques are often overlooked in favor of the more high-load, high-complex postures which are prioritized in the pursuit of strength’.
Feet of Coordination
Dr Mosley refers to balancing as ‘a feat of coordination’, but Hayley suggests another way of looking at this. ‘Coordination starts from the feet with information being transmitted up through the body to the brain through the neural pathways via the nervous system. The feet are the interface between the earth and the body providing essential information from the ground enabling the body to quickly organize itself over the Base of Support, (BOS) and in line with the Centre of Gravity (COG). How quickly we can bring the body back to balance and back to centre*, depends on how quickly the brain and nervous system, muscles and joints can react and reorganize over the Base of Support.
As yoga teachers, it’s important to introduce ‘training’ reaction times to help our students improve their functional everyday movements. It’s an approach we have successfully used with athletes, and as we are all human athletes this type of approach is essential both on and off the yoga mat’.
A Wobble A Day Keeps the Brain at Play
Dr Mosley says, ‘the brain’s balance system has an incredible capacity to compensate by making new nerve connections. It is the plasticity of our brains that enables us to stay upright beyond our 40’s, and gives us the potential to keep improving our balance even if we feel like we’ve succumbed to a life of unavoidable stumbles. The trick is to keep wobbling’.
Every time we wobble, (without falling), we recalibrate the brain. The proprioceptive sensors in our joints and muscles send feedback to the brain to help us remain upright and organize the body in a stable, balanced way in space.
Hayley says, ‘a wobble a day keeps the brain at play! The process of conscious wobbling helps develop the neuroplasticity of the brain to form new connections to the eyes, ears, muscles and joints. It becomes extremely powerful and effective when you combine this approach with breath in yoga’.’ *
The approach that both Dr Mosley and Hayley recommend is to mix up your daily routine and your yoga practice by including different ways that you can SAFELY do the simple things standing on one leg. Dr Mosley says, ‘every time you practice standing on one leg it recalibrate's your brain’!
Take the Wobble Test to Improve Your Balance & Your Brain
Let’s get started and take the Wobble test:
What you need before you start - a clock or phone handy so you can accurately time yourself standing on each leg.
Step 1: Eyes Open
Stand with your feet a hip width distance apart. Make sure you’re close to a wall or something to hang on to if you lose your balance. The intention here is to practice this SAFELY as you prepare to stand on one leg.
Stand on the leg that you think is your strongest. Time yourself, breathe and find a spot to focus on, observe the quality of wobble and feeling in the foot and ankle. Don’t push it - it’s not a competition. Make a note of the date, which leg, and the duration of time before you lose your balance (don’t be hard on yourself. This is how you build sustainable balance and stability:) Do the same on the other side.
Step 3: Eyes Closed!
After you’ve tried it both sides with your eyes open - try it with your eyes closed.
Keep note of your results.
The difference between steps 2 and 3 will highlight how important your vision is for balance.
Find a way to practice / play every day:) Keep going!
Important: With Your Eyes Open
Aim to balance without putting your other foot down for 1 minute.
A Japanese study showed that being unable to balance on one leg for 20 seconds shows future stroke risk. (Alarming, but let’s maintain perspective...lots of other factors....but this is an interesting point to consider).
Important: With Your Eyes Shut
The Medical Research Council tested 5,000 people aged 53. They completed the Step 3 test in front of specially trained nurses. People who could hold the position for less than 2 seconds were 3 times more likely to die before the age of 66, than those who could hold it for 10 seconds or more. Those unable to do the test at all were more likely to die in the following 13 years. (Again - alarming, but it does put into focus the power of the simple stuff that can reveal what lies underneath...if you have concerns, please approach your Doctor, or contact us at ….. we’re always happy to clarify our teaching points:).
Your Wobble Progression
We always love hearing from you! Get in touch and let us know how you have creatively introduced ‘The Wobble’ into your everyday activities and practice:)
(FYI: B is the best movement to help to give you lasting benefits to your balance and brain. Learn more in Series 1 of our Yoga Biomechanics Course details below 👇🏼:)
Take a look at other specialist training you can do with us online: