We're all in search of a balanced life, and I think I usually do a fair job of not getting pulled too far in one direction or the other. But once I started doing yoga, I realized that my actual physical balance is horrible! Whenever I'm on one foot, I wobble and tip and bob around like a dashboard ornament.
Though it's often overlooked, good balance is really important to overall health. It strengthens core muscles, helps prevent falls, and some research suggests that subjects who participate in balance exercises show more cognitive gains than those who do not. Most things that are good for the body are also good for the brain, so that shouldn't come as a surprise.
For a quick balance assessment, close your eyes and stand on one foot. The times below coordinate with functional age:
28s = 25-30y
22s = 30-35y
16s = 40y
12s = 45y
9s = 50y
8s = 55y
7s = 60y
6s = 65y
4s = 70y
Yikes. Seeing as how I am not sixty years old, I didn't exactly score where I should have (that eyes closed thing really got me). Let me also mention that there's a distinction between static balance, such as standing on one foot, and dynamic balance, which helps maintain control of your center of gravity while your body is in motion. I'll be the first to tell you that I'm not great at either.
Since I had to start somewhere, I spent the week practicing my best flamingo impersonations. And after seven days...I'm not a whole lot better at it. In fact, I was really surprised at how much my balance varied over the course of the day. Sometimes, I felt rock-solid. An hour later, a strong breeze could blow me down. I have much better results when I can keep my eyes open, and I'm barefoot on a hard surface. I think this is why doing yoga in a darkened room is challenging for me.
It's pretty easy to work in a few minutes of balance practice during the day, and that's a good thing because this Take It or Leave It was an eyeopener for me, ha ha. But with continued practice, maybe I can someday claim the flamingo as my spirit animal.
Here's wishing you a balanced life in all possible ways!