January 18, 2006

Be a Being of Balance (Part One) Bodily Equilibrium
There are many meanings of balance – a state of equilibrium; a weighing device; a harmonious arrangement of design; emotional stability; the difference in magnitude between opposing forces or influences; something that is leftover (remainder); life balance and others. The meaning of balance I'd like to focus on is a state of bodily equilibrium and how to be a being of balance.

Often, we take body balance for granted until we lose it. You've heard the saying "use it or lose it", well that saying is true for balance. Unless we practice balance, our balance decreases – for a variety of reasons. Inactivity results in fewer opportunities to test our balance, and coordination also decreases from not performing tasks that help maintain coordination. Loss of body strength, posture, agility, flexibility, vision and hearing impairments also affect balance.

How's your balance? Take a moment to test your balance with this exercise. Stand on one leg for 30 seconds, with arms crossed or at your sides, and eyes open gazing toward the horizon. How did you do? If you're up for it, switch legs and try the exercise holding the one-legged position for only 10 seconds with your eyes closed. In both instances, you probably experienced unstable ankles and swaying. That's okay, everyone has the ability to improve their balance.

As a function of the nervous system, balance is directly influenced by the five senses. A sixth sense, know as proprioception, provides "cues" as to the body positioning and alerts us when balance is threatened. The body's balance center (eyes, ears and feet) work together to sense imbalance and help correct posture. Consider how balance is essential to how you perform everyday tasks – walking up or down stairs; picking up items off the floor; stepping on a pebble; or recovering from a fall. Balance is important for overall conditioning and maintaining independence.

As we age, our self-confidence decreases as our fear of falling hugely increases. For many people, the anxiety of a possible fall is so great, that they avoid physical activity, even walking, as a result of this fear. Balance helps prevent falls, and helps the body train to make better use of your strength. In the next few days, observe yourself and others, are you looking down or are your eyes focused on the horizon? People with eyes focused on the horizon have better balance than people that look down.

Balance is the foundation to build better health and fitness. In general, people who have better balance respond to training and learn sport skills more quickly than those with poor balance. The more quickly the body is able to react to unbalancing forces, the more quickly balance is recovered. If you ski, ice skate, snowboard, bike, rock climb, golf, play tennis or engage in any other sport; you may notice how balance plays a major role in your sport performance. Again, everyone has the ability to improve their balance.

Balance training is the key to be a being of balance. The ideal balance program is one that challenges both static and dynamic balance with a focus on coordination. Static balance refers to a situation in which the body must balance on one or both feet with little external stimulus. Static balance refers to a position where the center of mass (the hips) balance directly over the base of support (the feet).

Dynamic balance is defined as balance while the body is in motion. This type of response occurs when the body's center of mass has to scribe a separate path from that of the feet in order to maintain balance. For example, as I ski, my center of mass needs to fall inside the path of the feet to retain balance while turning, or I fall down. Take a look at the following balance program to become a being of balance.

Balance Program

The information provided is not a substitute for a professional medical opinion. If you have a medical problem or concern, please contact a qualified health professional before engaging in any physical conditioning program.

In each session, attempt each exercise five times. Keep in mind that it may be difficult at first, but by practicing the balance exercises, it will be easier for you to attain or maintain your balance.

Static Balance Drills
  1. Stand with feet together, arms folded. Look ahead and hold balance for 30 seconds.
  2. Stand with feet together, arms folded. Eyes closed and hold balance for 10 to 30 seconds.
  3. Shift weight from side to side lifting foot.
  4. Shift weight step forward and back lifting foot.
  5. Stand on one foot, arms folded. Look ahead and hold balance for 30 seconds. Repeat on other foot.
  6. Stand on toes, arms extended forward, close eyes and hold balance for 30 seconds.
  7. Stand with feet together on a pillow or cushion, arms folded. Look ahead and hold balance for 30 seconds.
  8. Stand with feet together on a pillow or cushion, arms folded. Eyes closed and hold balance for 10 to 30 seconds.
  9. Stand with one foot in front of the other, arms folded. Look ahead and hold balance for 30 seconds.
  10. Stand with one foot in front of the other, arms folded. Eyes closed and hold balance for 10 to 30 seconds.
  11. Stand with one foot in front of the other on a pillow or cushion, arms folded. Look ahead and hold balance for 10 to 30 seconds.
  12. Stand with one foot in front of the other on a pillow or cushion, arms folded. Eyes closed and hold balance for 10 to 30 seconds.
Dynamic Balance Drills
  1. Walk across the room, eyes open and focus on horizon.
  2. Walk across the room, eyes closed.
  3. Hopscotch on one foot. Repeat on other foot.
  4. Perform jumping patterns with both legs and then one leg at a time.
  5. Do activities involving stooping, stretching, bending, going up and down stairs.
FitBall Balance Exercises
  1. Knee Lifts - sit on ball, hands on ball or arms across chest, alternate lifting your knee (working up to a bounce).
  2. Basic Rollout - sit on ball, arms across chest, move feet away from ball as you rollout with you back on ball, rest head on ball, hips up at end.
  3. Alternating Arm/Leg Extensions - with abdomen on ball, hands under shoulders, draw belly button in, lift alternating arm and leg (working up to all fours off floor).
  4. Balance on Ball - place hands and knees on ball, draw your belly button in, and balance on all fours on ball.
Now that you understand the importance of balance to help prevent falls, maintain coordination, independence, and build better health and fitness – what's next? It's simple, take action, stay active, and practice your balance. You too, can reach a state of bodily equilibrium and be a being of balance.

The activities described in this newsletter and on the website can result in personal injury. You assume full responsibility for using the information provided, and you understand and agree that INNERGY Coaching is neither responsible nor liable for any claim, loss, or damage resulting from its use.

Blessings,
Belen Carmichael, NLC
Life Coach

In the next issue: Be a Being of Balance (Part Two) Life Balance
Interested in group coaching and live in the Denver, Colorado area? See the Events page on the website for information about the Building Stability Group for Women Business Owners starting in February 2006.

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Wellness Within is published monthly by Belen Carmichael of INNERGY Coaching, providing life coaching, nutrition and lifestyle coaching and personal training to women business owners.
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