My Balance is No Good!

Well, if you are able to walk without feeling dizzy or falling over with every step you take, then please accept the fact that your balance is not too bad!  Every time you walk, you are balancing and then controlling your forward movement on one leg, and on the end of that leg is a little flesh and bone rectangle (called a foot) that improbably allows your body to stay vertical for a few seconds before the balance then swaps to the other foot.  So, having got your shonky balance into a bit of perspective, maybe you wish to improve your balance.

Almost everything we do in your daily life requires physical balance control, and most of the time we don’t have to think about it; sitting in and getting out of a chair, dressing, walking, driving, climbing stairs.  The ability to balance varies from day to night and from day to day.

Balance comes around through a complex interplay of:

  • Strength of the muscles and flexibility in tendons
  • the alignment of the skeletal muscles and joints and spine: containing proprioceptors which tell you where you are in space,
  • the entire nervous system including the vestibular system in the inner ear

Balance is affected when any one of these components encounters a problem, most often through muscle weakness or tightness, or from decades spent standing out of optimal alignment, but also through illness, injury, introduced chemicals (incl alcohol), fatigue or a brain taken using heavy computing power for worry, plans or too much “thinking” trying to balance!

A common perception is that we lose balance with age.  In practical terms for the majority this is true as a large proportion of the population will allow muscle mass to decrease as they see it as an inevitable part of ageing. The effort in working on optimal posture may loose priority to some as they get older and stiffness may be more accepted.  If a body has had a fall or two, there is the tendency to avoid challenging balance on a daily basis.  It is true that maintaining balance as we age does take work, but loss of balance is not an inevitable consequence of ageing.

“To retain or regain your balance get active to maintain the neural connections necessary for good balance, improve your posture so you won’t be apt to fall, and maintain your strength for a good foundation.”  Harvard Health Letter

Yoga fits the bill:  balance can be learnt and improved with practice in everyone.