Introduction to Balance
This first post is the introduction to my upcoming series on balance that looks in detail at all aspects balance related. Without good balance you cannot move. One of the things that you notice as you get older is that your balance is not as good as it used to be when you were younger. Not just in terms of standing on one leg, but also when getting up or down you find you are reaching out for something to give you that little bit of stability.
Years of Tai Chi has shown me that you need too treat balance as a skill which needs to be practiced on a regular basis. When you treat it as life skill (and good balance can literally save your life) then you tend to give it the attention it deserves.
Balance training essentially comes down to a combination of the relevant flexibility and strength training. The key is they need to be combineed in the same exercise and this is where Tai Chi practices really come into their own. Tai Chi principles combine both strength and flexibility at the same time like no other form of exercise. My personal observation and independent research has shown the massive impact Tai Chi can have on peoples balance and mobility.
The problem begins with the loss of strength and flexibility in key muscle areas that tends to begin in your late thirties/early forties. It is often a slow gradual process and most people only realise much later that suddenly their range of movement appears to have significantly shrunk.
The answer is specific balance training exercises that should be part of a body maintenance/conditioning practice that keeps the body functioning at a comfortable level.
The rewards from the balance training and flexibility training are higher levels of mobility as you grow older. Mobility as you know, if you’ve ever broken your leg or been bedridden, is only really something you truly understand when you do not have it any more. Our approach to mobility is one of an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. So the key is to begin balance and flexibility training as soon as your early forties, when things are beginning to stiffen up.
By undertaking a regime of regular practice you will over the years keep the tendons and ligaments and muscles relevant to your mobility in optimum condition in order to counteract the effects of the ageing process. The option of doing nothing, as easy as it is now, will lead ultimately to a much more difficult time later on.
Balance and flexibility training do not require a significant amount of time per session but rather needs to be practiced regularly over an extended period of time, preferably years. The sooner you can build this in to your life the easier it will be to carry it forward as you get older. The longer you leave it the steeper decline and in some cases if you have left it too long the mountain becomes too steep.
In this series on balance I will be exploring more on the topics of strength, flexibility, shifting your weight, difference between stationary balance and moving balance, and things that you can do to improve your overall balance.