Yoga Balance Workout

Yoga does an excellent job of strengthening and stretching muscles essential for balance. The yoga poses described below challenge static balance, the ability to stand in one spot without swaying, and dynamic balance, the ability to anticipate and react to changes as you move. Successfully managing these tasks requires you to keep your center of gravity poised over a base of support. Focus on good form, rather than worrying about how many reps you can complete. If you find an exercise especially difficult, do fewer reps or try the easier variation. As you improve, try a harder variation.

1. Tree Pose

Reps: 2–4 Sets: 1
Intensity: Moderate to high
Hold: 10 breaths or 10–30 seconds

Starting position: Stand up straight, feet hip-width apart and weight evenly distributed on both feet. Put your arms at your sides.

Movement: Slowly shift your weight to your right leg. Lift up your left foot and place it on the inside of your right leg above or below the knee. To help you balance, place the sole of your left foot firmly against your right leg and press your right leg against your left foot, grounding down through the standing leg for stability. Brace your abdominal muscles as you bend your elbows and bring your hands up in front of your chest in a prayer position. Hold. Return to the starting position, then repeat standing on your left leg. This completes one rep.

Tips and techniques:

  • Pick a spot straight ahead to focus on.
  • Maintain neutral posture.
  • Squeeze the buttock of the standing leg to help you balance.

Too hard? Place your left foot at your calf or ankle.
Too easy? Lift your foot higher on the supporting leg so that the heel is near your groin.

2. Dancer

Reps: 2–4 Sets: 1
Intensity: Moderate to high
Hold: 5 breaths or 5-15 seconds

Starting position: Stand up straight, feet together and weight evenly distributed on both feet. Put your arms at your sides.

Movement: Raise your left arm forward at shoulder level, thumb up. Bend your right knee and reach back with your right hand to grasp your ankle or your foot and lift it toward your buttock. Align your knees. Inhale and lift your left arm higher to help you balance. Hold. Return to the starting position, then repeat bending your left leg. This completes one rep.

Tips and techniques:

  • Pick a spot straight ahead to focus on.
  • Brace your abdominal muscles and squeeze the buttock of the standing leg.

Too hard? Instead of raising your arm, hold on to a sturdy chair or put one hand against the wall.
Too easy? Hold for 30–60 seconds.

3. Crescent warrior

Reps: 2–4 Sets: 1
Intensity: Moderate to high
Hold: 5 breaths or 5-15 seconds

Starting position: Stand up straight, feet together and weight evenly distributed on both feet. Put your arms at your sides.

Movement: Place your hands on your right thigh as you step back onto the ball of your left foot and sink into a high lunge by bending your right knee so that it is aligned over the ankle. Keep your left leg straight and your head, shoulders, hips, and feet facing forward. Bring your hands out to each side at shoulder level, palms up. Slowly exhale and rotate your torso to the right, keeping your chin centered above your chest. Hold. Return to the starting position, then repeat by stepping back onto the ball of your right foot and rotating your torso toward the left.

Tips and techniques:

  • Brace your abdominal muscles throughout.
  • Try to keep your weight evenly distributed between both feet.
  • Breathe comfortably or perform yoga breathing.

Too hard? Skip the rotation.
Too easy? Hold for 15–30 seconds.

4. Warrior III

Reps: 2–4 per side Sets: 1
Intensity: Moderate to high
Hold: 5 breaths or 5-15 seconds

Starting position: Stand up straight, feet together and weight evenly distributed. Place your hands on your right thigh as you step back onto the ball of your left foot and sink into a high lunge by bending your right knee so that it is aligned over the ankle. Keep your left leg straight, and your head, shoulders, hips, and feet facing forward.

Movement: Shift your weight forward over your right leg. Simultaneously lift both arms forward in line with your shoulders, palms inward, and lift your left leg until it is parallel to the floor, flexing the ankle so that your toes point toward the floor. Your head, shoulders, and hips should be even and parallel to the floor. Hold. Exhale and return to the starting position. Finish all reps. Repeat the full sequence with your weight on your left leg.

Tips and techniques:

  • Brace your abdominal muscles and squeeze the buttock of the supporting leg to help you balance.
  • Think of someone pulling your arms forward and drawing your extended leg backward.
  • Keep your head and spine neutral and your shoulders down.

Too hard? Slightly bend the knee of your supporting leg and do not lift your back leg as high.
Too easy? As you raise your back leg, reach your arms back alongside your body, palms toward the floor.

5. Side plank

Reps: 2–4 per side Sets: 1
Intensity: Moderate to high
Hold: 10 breaths or 10-30 seconds

Starting position: Kneel on all fours with your hands and knees directly aligned under your shoulders and hips. Extend both legs, hip-distance apart, feet flexed and toes touching the floor so that you balance your body in a line like a plank.

Movement: Roll to the outer edge of your right foot, stacking your left foot on top of the right. Raise your left arm up toward the ceiling, palm forward with fingers extended and wrist aligned directly over your shoulder. Brace your abdominal muscles. Keeping your shoulders, hips, and feet in a straight line, balance on your right hand. Hold. Return to the starting position. Finish all reps, then repeat on your left side.

Tips and techniques:

  • Keep your head and spine neutral, and directly align your shoulder over the hand on the floor.
  • Focus on lifting your bottom hip.
  • Keep your shoulders down and back.

Too hard? To help you balance in the right side plank, bend your left knee and place your left foot on the floor in front of your right leg, toes pointing toward the wall in front of you.
Too easy? Lift your top foot up toward the ceiling.

6. Figure four

Reps: 1 on each side Sets: 1
Intensity: Moderate
Hold: 5 breaths or 5-15 seconds

Starting position: Stand up straight, feet hip-width apart, and weight evenly distributed on both feet. Put your arms at your sides.

Movement: Standing on your right foot, bend your left knee and place your flexed left ankle above your right knee in a figure-four position. To help you balance, press your left ankle firmly against your right leg and squeeze your right leg against your left ankle. Bring your arms to shoulder level, elbows slightly bent and palms inward.Now. extend your hips backward as if sitting down in a chair, while moving your arms forward to a wide V-position. Brace your abdominal muscles. Hold. Return to the starting position. Repeat the sequence standing on your left foot.

Tips and techniques:

  • Exhale as you sink into the pose.
  • Draw your shoulders down away from your ears.
  • Breathe comfortably or practice yoga breathing.

Too hard? Put your hand against the wall for support.
Too easy? Hold for 10 breaths or 10–30 seconds.

7. Upward-facing dog

Reps: 2-4 Sets: 1
Intensity: Moderate
Hold: 5 breaths or 5-15 seconds

Starting position: Lie on your stomach with your hands under your shoulders, elbows close to your sides. Extend your legs comfortably and press the tops of your feet against the floor.

Movement: Inhale, pushing with your hands and feet simultaneously to lift your upper torso and hips off the floor. Keep your chin parallel to the floor as you try to fully straighten your arms without locking your elbows. Hold. Return to the starting position.

Tips and techniques:

  • Lift upward only to the point of mild tension, not pain.
  • Do not lock your elbows when fully straightening your arms.
  • Breathe comfortably or practice yoga breathing.

Too hard? Do not lift upward as far.
Too easy? Hold the lift for 10 breaths or 10–30 seconds.

8. Downward-facing dog

Reps: 2-4 Sets: 1
Intensity: Light to Moderate
Hold: 10 breaths or 10-30 seconds

Starting position: Start on your hands and knees with your fingers extended.

Movement: Exhale as you lift your knees off the floor, straightening your legs without locking the knees until you are in an upside-down V. While maintaining a neutral neck and spine, align your ears with your biceps. Try to keep your weight evenly distributed between your hands and feet. Press your heels down toward the floor, if possible, while keeping your shoulders rolled back. Hold. Return to the starting position.

Tips and techniques:

  • Keep your shoulders rolled back as you lengthen your spine.
  • Brace your abdominal muscles throughout.
  • Breathe comfortably or practice yoga breathing.

Too hard? Bend your knees slightly and let your heels come up off the floor.
Too easy? Hold 30–60 seconds.

This is an excerpt from the Better Balance: Easy exercises to improve stability and prevent falls Special Health Report.