Yoga balance poses are excellent for strengthening core muscles, increasing focus, boosting coordination, and - you guessed it - improving balance. Balance is an essential skill that makes it easier to go about your day-to-day activities, like walking or climbing stairs. A strong sense of balance can help prevent falls and injuries, and build self-confidence that you carry with you through your everyday life. And research shows that good balance is linked to longevity and health.
Some asanas, especially yoga poses on one leg, may be an exercise in frustration when you first begin,the time and effort you put into your yoga practice to improve your balance will pay off.
Beginner Yoga Poses to Improve Balance
Before you try yoga poses on one leg, you'll want to improve your overall stability and balance. Yoga poses that require balance are physically and mentally challenging, and many people struggle when trying these poses for the first time. If you're new to yoga, these beginner balance poses keep both feet on the ground to help you strengthen your body and improve your skills. Once you've mastered these poses, you can move into more advanced one-leg yoga poses, such as the tree pose.
Mountain pose (tadasana) is an excellent balance pose for beginners. As a foundational pose for many other balancing poses, the mountain pose helps build your strength, stability, and posture, which are essential for balance. Although mountain pose looks like it should be easy, it is a full-body exercise that requires concentration, strength, and balance.
Instructions for mountain pose
- Stand with your feet parallel to each other and facing forward, with your big toes touching and your heels slightly apart.
- Lift your toes and the balls of your feet from the floor, then slowly bring them back down on the floor.
- Slowly rock on your feet from side to side to make sure your weight is evenly distributed through both feet.
- Tuck in your hips and pelvis so your tailbone is pointing down.
- Lift the top of your chest (sternum) toward the ceiling and pull your shoulders down and away from your ears.
- Keep your arms at your sides, with your palms facing forward.
- Balance the top of your head directly over your pelvis, with your chin parallel to the floor and your tongue resting gently on the floor of your mouth.
- Close your eyes and focus on taking slow, deep breaths.
- Hold for 3 to 5 breaths.
Beginner tips for mountain pose
- To check the alignment of your spine, you may want to watch yourself in the mirror as you enter and hold this pose.
- If you're having trouble holding the pose and maintaining good posture, you can stand with the backs of your heels and shoulder blades against a wall.
- Make sure your knees are slightly bent and not locked, with your hips directly over your knees.
- If it is too difficult to hold the pose with your feet close together, try standing with your feet 3 to 5 inches apart.
Warrior pose (virabhadrasana)is a full-body pose that requires coordination and concentration. With one foot positioned behind your body and your other knee bent at 90 degrees and your arms held above your body, this pose can be challenging for beginners but is a great way to improve your balance.
Instructions for warrior pose 1
- Begin in mountain pose and step one foot back, placing your body into a lunge position.
- Keep your back straight with your tailbone pointing down and your pelvis lifted.
- Put the heel of your front leg down on the ground and angle your back foot ~45 degrees inward. The arch of your back foot should be aligned with the heel of your front foot.
- Breathe in, and as you exhale, slowly move your hips toward your front leg. Avoid pushing your hips too far forward if this movement causes pain.
- Keep your back leg still as you move the front leg into a 90-degree angle, with your knee aligned directly over the ankle of the front foot.
- Slowly move your arms out and above your head, palms facing each other but shoulder-width apart.
- Keep your head and eyes facing forward as you reach for the ceiling.
- Hold this pose for about 30 seconds or as long as you comfortably can. To release, straighten your back leg and bring your arms down.
- Repeat these steps on the other side.
Beginner tips for warrior pose
- If you have lower back pain, it may be difficult to maintain a deep bend in your front knee as you reach your arms up toward the ceiling. Bend your knee only as far as is comfortable to reduce the intensity of the pose.
- If your front (bending) knee moves too far inward as you hold the pose, gently bring the knee toward the side of your mat, just enough to keep your knee facing forward and prevent inward rotation.
- If you feel like you're about to topple over, widen your stance a little to provide more stability.
Triangle pose (trikonasana), sometimes called extended triangle pose, strengthens and stretches the leg muscles, torso, and chest. It also improves stability, flexibility, and balance.
Instructions for triangle pose
- Stand lengthwise on your yoga mat with your legs about 3 to 4 feet apart and your toes pointing forward.
- Turn your left foot slightly inward and rotate your right foot about 90 degrees. Your right foot should be lined up perpendicular to your left foot.
- Make sure your weight is evenly distributed on both feet/legs.
- Raise your arms parallel to the floor, palms facing down.
- Bend your right knee so that it is lined up with your right ankle. Keep your left leg straight.
- Extend your torso toward the right side of your body, moving your right hand down toward the floor. Raise your left hand and point your fingers to the ceiling. Your arms should form a straight line, with your right hand resting on your right ankle or shin.
- Turn your head toward your left arm and look up toward your thumb.
- Engage your core and tighten the muscles in your left leg to stay stabilized and balanced.
- Breathe deeply and slowly and hold the pose for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Beginner tips for triangle pose
- If you're unable to place your bottom hand on your shin or ankle, use a prop - like a yoga block - to help support your body. Over time, your flexibility should improve and you may be able to perform the pose without props.
- Feeling wobbly in the triangle pose? Press your back heel against a wall for extra support and stability.
- Keep a slight bend in both knees to activate your leg muscles and avoid injury.
- People with neck pain may find it easier to look down toward the floor rather than look up.
Chair pose (utkatasana) is a standing balance pose that engages the entire body. This pose helps strengthen core and quadriceps (thigh) muscles, and improves balance and posture.
- Stand with your feet together, big toes touching.
- Inhale deeply and raise your arms above your head, with your biceps close to your ears and palms facing inward. You can keep your arms parallel or join your palms together.
- Exhale and bend your knees, bringing your thighs as parallel to the floor as possible. Your torso should lean slightly forward over your thighs, forming a right angle. Your knees should be slightly over your feet. Your body weight should be in your heels.
- Tilt your head back slightly, and point your tailbone toward the floor.
- Hold for as long as comfortably possible (aim for 30 to 60 seconds).
- To end the pose, straighten your legs as you inhale. Release your arms to your sides as you exhale.
Beginner tips for chair pose
- People with tight, stiff shoulders may find it difficult to raise their arms above their heads. Modify this movement by bringing your palms together at the center of your chest in a prayer position. Or, hold them parallel to the floor, palms facing down.
- It's normal to feel shaky when holding the chair pose. For support, use a wall to support your hips as you move into the pose.
- If you struggle to stay balanced with your feet close together, try standing with your feet about hip-width apart.
One-Legged Yoga Poses for Balance
Once you've established a strong foundation by practicing beginner balancing poses, you can move on to trying one-legged yoga poses. These one-leg balancing poses can be challenging, so don't be discouraged if you topple over or struggle to get it right on your first few attempts. Balance is a learned skill, and balancing on one leg requires strength, practice, and patience.
Tree pose (vrksasana) is a fantastic way to improve balance and posture. Many people with sciatica pain enjoy this pose for the stretch and relief it offers after long periods of sitting.
Instructions for tree pose
- Begin in mountain pose.
- Shift your weight to your right leg, and slowly bring your left leg up.
- Place your hands on your hips and raise your left foot onto the inner thigh of your right leg, as high above your knee as is comfortable. Your toes should be pointing down to the ground.
- When you feel balanced and steady, stretch your arms over your head, reaching for the ceiling.
- Hold for 30 seconds to 3 minutes, focusing on your breath
- Release the pose and repeat on the opposite side.
Beginner tips for tree pose
- Practice the tree pose while leaning against a wall if you feel unsteady, or just a few inches away from a wall. If you feel wobbly, reach out a hand to steady yourself and try again.
- Your hips should be level and facing forward through the pose, so be mindful not to twist your hips as you raise your leg or place your foot against your standing leg.
- Keep your arms aligned with your ears as you raise your arms above your head. Moving them too far back or forward can cause you to stumble.
Half Moon Pose
Half moon pose (ardha chandrasana) requires significant focus to move into the pose and remain balanced. This pose gives a good stretch in your groin and hip flexors and strengthens your core muscles to improve balance.
Instructions for half-moon pose
- Stand at the top of your mat, toes facing forward with your feet close together.
- Take a large step back with your right foot, rotating your right hip. Your right toes and hips should be facing the side of the mat, and your left toes should be facing forward.
- Relax your shoulders, and raise your arms into a 'T' position, palms facing down.
- Place your right hand on your waist.
- Bend your left knee, shifting your weight into your left leg.
- Raise your right leg behind you until it is parallel to the floor. Your weight should be balanced evenly on your left foot.
- Straighten your left knee, and lower your left hand to the floor, about 12 inches in front of your left foot.
- Extend your right arm up toward the ceiling, with your palm facing the same direction as your right toes.
- Hold the pose for 5 to 6 breaths.
- To exit half moon pose, exhale and lower your right hand to your waist and slowly bring your foot back down onto your mat.
- Repeat on the other side.
Beginner tips for the half moon pose
- If you are struggling to balance, find a focal point in front of you and keep your eyes looking straight ahead.
- A yoga block may be helpful if you find it difficult to lower your hand down to the floor. Use a block at its highest position as you begin. Once you build your strength and balance, you can lower the block or try the pose without a prop.
Eagle pose (garudasana) requires concentration and body awareness. This pose stretches your upper back, shoulders, and thighs and strengthens your legs and core muscles. It's an excellent way to improve balance and focus.
Instructions for eagle pose
- Begin in mountain pose.
- Slightly bend your knees without your knees going over the toes.
- Bring your left leg over around the right leg, with your foot curved around your right calf.
- Reach both arms out in front of you at shoulder height and wrap your right arm over your left, crossing the right elbow over the left upper arm. Bring your right hand toward your face, cross your forearms, and bring your palms together.
- Hold the pose for 15 to 30 seconds while taking slow, deep breaths.
- Return to mountain pose and repeat on the other side.
Beginner tips for eagle pose
- Some beginners find it difficult to hook the raised-leg foot behind the calf of their standing leg. A modified eagle pose can be done by crossing your legs and praising the big toe of your raised-leg foot on the floor to maintain balance, rather than hooking your foot behind the standing leg calf.
- If it is difficult to bring your palms together, try using a strap to assist with this movement. Or, cross your arms on your chest.
Tips to Improve Your Balance in Yoga
Balancing poses can be intimidating, especially when you are on one leg, but with a little patience and a lot of practice, you can master them in time. If you're new to yoga or balance poses, here are some tips for improving your balance on and off the yoga mat:
- Fix your gaze. Find a spot to fix your gaze on to help yourself remain steady as you hold a balance pose.
- Focus on your breath. As you move into and hold a pose, concentrate on taking steady, deep breaths to relax your body and remain still.
- Use props. Invest in yoga blocks, straps, or other props that can help you make modifications to poses you find challenging.
- Ask for support. Attend a class with a certified yoga instructor who can help make sure your alignment is correct in each pose, or connect with a fellow yogi who can provide physical and moral support.
Lastly, remember to give yourself grace. Everyone was once a beginner, so don't expect yourself to be perfect from the start. These things take time to perfect, so be patient with yourself, even if you stumble, wobble, or fall over.