It has been a general understanding that following a Yoga routine regularly can help you to remain healthy and fit physically. There is also a widespread understanding that with the help of regular Yoga one can manage the issues of anxiety, stress and overall mental health. Although if we divide Yoga Asanas into categories such as Forward Bending Postures, Meditative Postures, Inverted Postures etc then we will see that every group of asanas has some specific benefits which will be common throughout that category.

In this blog we will throw some light on the benefits of Balancing Asanas in Yoga, especially their effect on the brain and other benefits which you can get if you include balancing poses in your daily Yoga routine.

There are a multitude of reasons to improve one’s balance, one of them being body toning. However, an often overlooked benefit is the way balancing engages the brain in a very effective way improving brain activity, memory and overall mental health. As for the brain, it is the main responsible for maintaining balance in the body. The brain receives and processes the information sent to it by the balance sensors, and it sends instructions to the body for responding accordingly in order to maintain balance. Therefore, balancing asanas and exercises would result in a direct effect on the brain.

Practicing balance exercises or Yoga Asanas can promote greater neuroplasticity, which keeps the brain young and supple, as well as enhancing “higher” functions like reading, memory, comprehension, and mathematics. In Simple words Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to grow and evolve as a result of life experiences, while plasticity is the capacity to shape, mould, or alter, and neuroplasticity is the ability to adapt and change over time by creating new neurons and creating new networks within the brain. It is a common fact that neuroplasticity stops after childhood, although many studies in mind sciences and Yoga suggest that many forms of exercises, Yoga Asanas, meditation and pranayama routines help the brain to keep growing or maintain its neuroplasticity. Researchers have shown that challenges to your coordination, agility and balance alter your brain structure in a fundamentally different way than aerobic fitness or strength training.

However, it also not that simple as it may sound, balancing exercises alone are not enough to encourage the brain to build new pathways and neural connections. Novelty and unpredictability are needed to push the brain in this direction. Therefore performing a variety of balancing poses is also important to achieve this. Hence it becomes important to use a variety of movements and poses and at times unstable surfaces, as well as not repeating the same poses all the time. Repetition may help your basic ability to maintain balance, but not so much with neuroplastic gains.

Balancing poses are great in countering cognitive decline in the brain. In recent years, studies have shown a link between poor balance, cognitive decline, and small blood vessel disease in the brain. For example balancing on one leg like in Tadasana helped in countering the effects of cognitive decline in the subjects. Whereas people who had difficulty in standing on one leg were found to have poorer cognitive functions, including memory and spatial awareness, however people with impaired balance, whether they are children or adults, should seek medical advice first, before getting into any such exercise routine.

Balancing Yoga Asanas and exercises also makes us more calm, confident and focused. Such a routine is effective in combating lifestyle issues like anxiety, stress & Depression. The main reason behind this is simple. Practicing balancing poses is a particularly meditative experience since they require highly concentrated inner focus, it draws all your attention towards balancing which enhances brain functioning. We’re so busy getting up and not falling that we have no room for unnecessary thoughts when we balance, we challenge so many internal systems at once while practising such a routine. The deep inner focus needed for balance has been shown to cause brainwave changes, leading to a more peaceful state.

Balancing Yoga Asanas For Beginners: 

In order to get above mentioned benefits you start practising below mentioned asanas for 15-30 minutes everyday, If you are doing it correctly you should start feeling changes in your body and mental state within 30-40 days of regular practice.

Tadasana – (The Tree Pose) 

Despite looking simple, Tadasana is pretty intense and creates fantastic mind-body coordination. Its benefits will become evident only when you come on your toes and close your eyes. Straighten and lengthen your spine, tuck your pelvis in, Engage your core muscles by pulling the navel towards your spine, Resting your palms on the outer thighs, Roll away your shoulders, and bring your shoulder blades in as close as possible.

Inhale and bring both the arms over your head and lengthen the torso. Press your feet firmly into the floor. Take five to ten breaths here. At the end of the sixth breath, lift the heels and rise up on the toes.  Join the palms above your head in Namaste pose. Close your eyes and fix the gaze in the space between the eyebrows. Hold the pose and balance for the next six to ten deep breaths. Inhale and place the heels on the floor. Exhale and release the pose. A variation can also be performed by bringing one leg onto the inner thigh of the other and by balancing in this pose while your arms are above your heads with palms joined together.

Utkatasana – The Chair Pose

It is an ideal balancing pose for beginners to strengthen the core. Stand straight with your feet together. Lengthen the spine, and align it with the head and neck. Engage the core muscles by pulling the navel up and close to the spine. Tuck your tailbone inward. Roll your shoulders away and down from the ears, bringing the shoulder blades as close as possible.

Inhale and join your palms over your head in Namaste pose. Exhale and while pushing your hips back. Lean forward slightly so that the torso and thighs are at 45-degree angle with each other. Check that your knees are above the ankle. Ideally, thighs should be parallel to the floor. But in case your knees move forward to the toes, adjust the alignment so that knees are right above the ankle. Balance here for five – tenbreaths.On the next inhalation, lift the toes away from the floor and balance the body on the heels. Close your eyes and hold the pose for the next six to ten deep breaths. On the final exhale, place the toes on the floor. Inhale, straighten the torso, and release the pose. 

Chaturanga Dandasana – Four Limbed Staff Pose 

This pose works on the entire body. It strengthens the core, arms, shoulders and tones the entire body. It is also a good balancing posture which can give you some quick results. In order to practise this asana, stand straight with your feet together. Lengthen the spine, align  it with the head and neck. Engage the core muscles by pulling the navel up and close to the spine. Tuck your tailbone inwards. Roll the shoulders away and down from the ears, bringing the shoulder blades as close as possible.

Inhale and on the exhale, bend forward slowly and place the palms firmly on the floor. Walk or jump backward and get into a plank position. Exhale here and slowly bring down your body close to the floor, by bending your elbows backward. Tuck in your toes, engage your hip muscles, core, and thighs. In the final position, the entire body should come parallel to the floor. Hold the pose for ten to fifteen breaths. Repeat it four-five times. Gently lie down on the floor after practicing the pose.

There are many other poses which you can add into routine such as Dandayamna Bharmanasana (Balancing Table Pose), Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana (One-Legged Downward Facing Dog Pose), Garudasana (Eagle Pose), Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose) , Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana (Revolved Half Moon Pose), Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (Extended Hand to Toe Pose), and many more. You can start with the three asanas mentioned above and step by step you can start adding more asanas as you progress. It is certain that by practising these asanas for 20-30 minutes a day you will find yourself in a much better physical and mental state.

Compiled By:

Dr. Piyush Jain