Ah Balance… that elusive quality of living well. One moment we have it and then it seems to slip through our fingers with such ease. A key element in being well, how do we find balance – in body, mind and heart? Part I of balance is the physical. Because we can learn so much from the wisdom in our body, practicing balance in our body can provide a pathway for finding balance in life.
Physical balance is the ability to maintain the center line of a body/mass within the base of support with minimal side to side movement known as sway. Sway is described as being “essential and inevitable due to internal or external triggers” Physical balance is an interaction of feedback loops between the:
- Organs in the ear sensing inner movement
- Skin and joints sense the interaction with balancing surface
- Visual system that compares the body to the outside world
There is also important contribution from muscles – especially the core and feet. When one of these elements of balance is lacking, we rely on the others even more to maintain physical balance. Just as anything else in the body – we can either use it or lose it. When balance is not challenged the system gets “dusty”. Same with muscles, inactivity causes the muscle to de-activate as more and more muscle fibers hibernate due to lack of use. It is so common with aging that we can take loss of balance and muscle as normal. Yet countless studies show that it is only dormant and can be re-activated with use. Ninety-Three year old yoga teacher Tao Porchon-Lynch, pictured here, is a great testament of balancing at any age. Daily balances exercise continually activates this internal system and keeps it strong as we age. Simply practicing standing on one foot at the kitchen counter is a great start. Finding ways to incorporate balance exercises into an exercise program or just everyday life has huge payoffs down the road beyond physical well-being. Just as tree pose in yoga can teach us physical balance, trees in nature have a lot to teach us about life balance. Stay tuned for the next blog, Balance Part II, and some lessons from trees…
Janet Huehls, MA, RCEP, CHWC