New Castle News

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October 31, 2013

Lori Brothers: Balancing on one foot can improve focus, calm the mind

NEW CASTLE — I found an interesting chart on sharecare.com that lists the amount of seconds you should be able to stand on one foot (based on your age) with your eyes closed.

Take off your shoes (if appropriate). Find a partner to time you. You can try three times per side, timing each attempt. Add the three times together, divide by 3 to get your average.

We use our vision and our inner ear to determine where we are spatially, which contributes to maintaining steady balance. Therefore, it is much harder to balance with your eyes closed.

I suggest using the eyes closed test once a week to see how you are improving. The real discipline is to remember to cultivate better balance daily, starting with your eyes open, choosing a point to gaze at. Practice will upgrade your “real age” versus your chronological age.

It takes core and leg strength, and good posture to achieve better physical balance. It will also take time, consistency, patience, practice, focus and staying calm to create improvement.

Balancing strengthens your core because you have to find the center of gravity in your body (just below the navel) and utilize the torso muscles. This patterns balance into the “hard-drive” of your brain. The brain records the “centering” information each time you practice and stores it as a healthy pattern for use in daily life.

Feet and legs are the foundation of the body. Standing on one foot helps to make each leg stronger independently. When you return to standing on two feet, feel the cooperation of two legs working together. Over time you will feel steadier on two feet. Now that’s foundational.

It is also important to develop a sense of “rooting.”  When balancing, imagine a triangle on the bottom of the foot you are standing on. The triangle runs between the base of the big toe, the base of little toe,and the center of the heel. With this visual, imagine that you are standing evenly into all three points to use the whole surface of the foot that is supporting you.

We will call this “planting.” The planting of the foot helps to deeply root you to the spot you are standing in. If you are good at visualizing, you may want to imagine that you are growing roots like a tree out of the bottom of the planted foot into the ground beneath you.

Practicing balancing in the physical body improves your attention and calms the mind. If you practice balancing regularly, when you anchor in the spot you are planted in, you are not thinking about the grocery list or what you have to get done tomorrow. No distractions.

This mental focus is a requirement. You cannot worry about what happened yesterday or what will happen tomorrow, and be strong in your balancing pose. When you call all of your attention to balancing, you are grounded and centered in the moment – no wobbling.

Develop an awareness of lifting your heart to stand tall. This improves your posture. The physical lift in the chest engages and strengthens your back muscles, improving back health. Lifting the heart also opens chest and shoulder patterns, and counters the down-pull of gravity.

You can gain physical stability, poise and grace, develop ease of standing and movement, and claim more confidence and youth by taking daily steps to improve your balance.

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