Practicing balancing on one leg helps build core strength and whole body coordination, improves your overall posture, and helps prevent injuries in your daily physical activities. Balance postures also have a calming effect on your mind. Try these yoga balances and see for yourself!
OK, on with the Big Toe Balance! Three components can help your balance in these postures:
1. Keep your eyes focused on one point, something that is not moving.
2. Engage the core, drawing your belly button toward your spine. Stability and balance comes from your center, not just from your legs and feet. 3. Breathe slowly, steadily and deeply.
If balancing on one leg is a challenge for you, you can use a wall for support – stand about an arm’s length away from the wall facing sideways, feet parallel to the wall, with the shoulder on the same side as the standing leg toward the wall. (i.e. if you are balancing on your right leg, stand with your right shoulder an arm’s length away from the wall) make sure not to lean on the wall, just use it to catch yourself if you lose your balance.
Modified Big Toe Balance (Utthita Hasta Padangustasana Variation)
This is a great starter balance posture if you are new to balancing on one leg. This version of a single leg balance helps build the core strength, coordination and stability required for other single leg balance postures.
To get into the posture: Stand with your feet together with second toe tendons parallel to one another. Spread the toes wide, and firm the feet into the floor. Bring your hands together at the middle of your chest. Focus your eyes on one point to help keep your balance. Transfer all your weight into your left foot, and lift your right leg with the knee bent until your thigh is parallel to the floor and your right foot is level with your left knee. Hold here for 5-10 breaths, then switch legs.
• Make sure you stand up straight in this pose; do not fold forward toward the lifted leg or lean back to counterbalance the weight of the leg.
Big Toe Balance (Utthita Hasta Padangustasana)
This posture further strengthens the core and also stretches the hamstrings and hip flexors.
To get into the posture: Set like the previous posture with feet parallel and toes spread wide. Transfer all your weight into your left foot and lift your right leg with the knee bent. Grab your right big toe in your right hand with your pointer and middle finger going between the first and second toes and gripping behind the big toe, and your thumb on your big toenail. While standing tall, straighten the leg straight forward from the hip or slightly higher. Hold for 5-10 breaths, then switch legs.
• As in the previous variation, make sure you do no lean back against the weight of the leg, and make sure you do not let the weight of the leg pull your torso forward.
• If you are not able to straighten the lifted leg, you may leave the knee slightly bent.
• If you are not able to lift the leg as high as your hip, loop a strap around the ball of the lifted leg and hold the strap instead of the big toe.
• Do not allow the weight of the leg to pull your arm forward out of its socket. Strongly roll the shoulder down and back and keep the shoulder muscles engaged. This will naturally lift your leg higher, too.