The idea of balance is one of the first things that comes to mind when mentioning up yoga. Yoga balance poses are also some of the most iconic ones. Tree pose, Eagle pose, or Crane pose.
The concept of balance in yoga goes beyond just balance exercises and can is one of the fundamental concepts of yoga. Balanced emotions, balanced relationships, work-life balance are the things that many people seek when they join their first yoga class. The mental and psychological aspects of balance are deep and fascinating subjects, but today we will focus on the purely physiological benefits of yoga for balance.
What is balance?
Balance (or Equilibrioception) is the complex phenomena, produced by several of our sensory systems working in unison. Our feeling of balance is affected by the visual system (that is why standing on one leg with eyes closed is so much more difficult than with eyes open), inner ear (vestibular system) and our body’s sense of its position in space (proprioception, from Latin “proprio” - ”individual” and “capere” - ”to grasp”). Many would agree, intuitively, that yoga can do a lot to help with our body awareness. However, more and more research shows that yoga can be as effective in improving our vestibular and even visual systems. Practicing yoga helps us improve both standing and dynamic balance, while, achieving a good balance in other, more general aspects of life.
Balance through body awareness
Positive effects of yoga on our body awareness are well documented. Yoga practitioners consistently score higher on Body Perception Questionnaire  than people who do not practice yoga. There are several possible explanations of how and why yoga makes us more body aware. One of the possible reasons is the emphasis that yoga puts on bodily sensations and sensory experiences . Performing complex movement patterns, such as, for example yoga balance sequence during focused breathing exercises help us better observe the subtle clues produced by our bodies.
Compared to sitting meditation, yoga increases the intensity of bodily signals. In the long term, it helps us understand and, eventually even regulate our bodies better. A better understanding of the body through yoga leads to more confidence in our movements. Multiple studies [4,5] have shown that yoga is a powerful tool in reducing the risk of falling among older adults. Fear of falling is one of the significant risk factors, and yoga has consistently shown to reduce this fear  after 8 weeks of practice. If we look at the widely accepted balance assessment methods, the effectiveness of yoga for improving balance becomes even less surprising. Most clinical balance tests involve measuring the duration a person can stand balanced on one foot. It is a skill, directly developed by many one leg yoga poses. Balancing on one leg is not just a party trick, but is an important risk assessment method. Inability to stand on one foot for more than 5 seconds is linked to 100% higher risk of injury by falling .
Yoga for Vestibular Apparatus
The balancing effect of yoga goes beyond our perception of balance, acquired through better body awareness. Practicing yoga can improve your inner function in a measurable way. A study showed that yoga helps increase the amplitude and reduce the latency of our vestibular apparatus . It also improves the symmetry between the right and left sides. The exact mechanism of how yoga practitioners are able to improve their inner ears is not entirely clear. The researchers suggested that it may have been the result of better postural control and stronger core muscles. Balancing yoga poses improve not only our posture and movement but even the signaling capacity of our inner ear.
Balancing Yoga Poses
So which are the best yoga poses for balance?
Below is the list of the 5 beginner-friendly yoga postures to add to your next balance practice:
- Tree Pose
- Warrior III or Airplane pose
- Side Plank
- Shoulder Stand (“candle”)
- Half Moon Pose
For more advanced yogis:
- Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose
- Lord of The Dance
- Side Plank With Leg Rising
- Crow Pose (arm balancing)
If you are in the mood for yoga now and are interested in balancing yoga poses, try Balancing Yoga Practice in the Yoganotch app. Available on the App Store and absolutely free.