Gaining wisdom through aging is the ultimate positive of growing older— which is why we like to offer you more knowledge to combat the less favorable side effects of aging...and besides, September IS National Healthy Aging Month!
As our bodies become less agile through the years, there are many actions we can take to keep healthy. The Backbridge can't turn back the clock, per se, but the one thing we can help you with are simple, yet very important balance exercises.
Understanding the power of strengthened balance and practicing balance exercises on the daily can be life changing. Imagine always being able to move with ease and being quick on the feet without worry of falling. “Working on one’s balance is a vital aspect to health,” says our leading healthcare expert says Dr. Todd Sinett, a New York-based chiropractor and applied kinesiologist.
Balance— medically known as proprioception— is the ability to sense and continually adapt to where we are in space. Balance is at its highest level in our younger years which allows us to respond to our environments more quickly and effectively. As we age, our balance levels lessen and our response to obstacles in our pathways is slower. This is when accidents and falls happen.
“Poor balance leads to injuries from tripping and falls and this can be detrimental to our well-being on many levels,” Dr. Sinett notes. “Physically we can break bones or sprain ankles, and mentally it can be taxing to feel the weight of aging simply through losing the ability to keep yourself afoot. I often meet patients who’ve never considered why we need to dedicate time for balance exercises. Taking just a few minutes a day can be a game-changer because having proper balance is the key to keeping us agile and steady on our feet.”
Why Should I Do Balance Exercises?
Daily balance exercises help to ensure we don’t lose our highest levels of balance too quickly while also keeping balance continually strengthened. The exercises are a series of poses that engages the body’s core, stabilizes muscles, and helps our alignment. Balance exercises lead you to having a heightened awareness of your surroundings and helps you to be more in control of your body.
“Practicing balance poses can dramatically improve your quality of life by allowing you to become more limber and less susceptible to injury,” Dr Sinett stresses. “These specific functional exercises will also challenge your nervous system and ultimately improve your performance in sports or other fitness activities; and for those that may not play sports, the benefits are still aplenty as you’ll be able to bend over and move your body in many different positions with greater ease.”
Four Balance Exercises for a Better Quality of Life
Ahead are our four favorite balance exercises using the Backbridge. Exercises can be made easier or harder by adding or subtracting different levels of the Backbridge. And while the more levels will make the exercise harder, remember that progression is key. Practice the exercises at the level you feel best and add the levels when you feel you can handle.
BALANCE EXERCISE #1: Side Leg Balance
Stand with your left foot in the center of level 1 of the Backbridge (the Backbridge can be either parallel or perpendicular to your body). You can either keep your right foot hovering just above the mat or raise it out to the side to increase the balance challenge. Place your hands on your hips or raise your arms out to the side to assist your balance. Switch legs and repeat.
BALANCE EXERCISE #2: Front Leg Balance and Raise (With Bent Knee)
Standing on one foot in the center of the Backbridge, raise your other leg in front of you, bending at the knee so your leg is at a 90-degree angle. You can stay here and balance or do 10 repetitions of raising and lowering your knee, keeping your foot off the mat the entire time. Switch legs and repeat.
BALANCE EXERCISE #3: Warrior 3 Balance Pose
Standing with your left foot on the center of the Backbridge, slowly lean forward while simultaneously raising your right leg behind you. Keep your hips square and pointing forward as you reach out through your right leg, keeping your right foot flexed with the toes pointing down. As your balance improves in this exercise, work toward keeping both legs straight and leaning further forward in this pose. You can keep the arms straight and close to your sides with palms facing forward/down or you can bring the arms out to a “T” to assist with the balance. Switch legs and repeat.
BALANCE EXERCISE #4: Tree Pose Balance
A traditional yoga pose, the tree pose can be practiced using the Backbridge to introduce an instability factor. Stand with your left foot in the center of the Backbridge, level 1. Bending your right knee and externally rotating your right leg from the hip, place the ball of your right foot on the Backbridge. Your toes and right knee will point out to the right.
For increased difficulty (and an increased hip opening stretch), bring the sole of your right foot to the inside of your left calf, just below your left knee or to the inside of your thigh, just above the knee. Never place your foot directly on the side of your knee as this can create harmful pressure on the joint. Place your hands on your hips for balance or raise your arms above your head for an increased challenge. Switch legs and repeat.
Learn more about balance and balance poses using the Backbridge in Dr. Sinett’s book The Ultimate Backbridge Stretch Book.