Posture, balance go hand in hand

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 30, 2020

Balance is so important in your life. Not only balance between work, pleasure, relaxation, family and friends, but balance as in not falling — to be able to lift one foot up to put on your shoe or sock, or just to step on a sidewalk.

The older we get the harder it is to balance and it hurts a lot more when we do trip or fall. And like muscle mass, if you don’t use it, you lose it.            

A yoga class would be perfect to work on your posture and balance (and more), if it’s hard for you to do on your own.

First we work on your posture. A great “see where you are” test is to stand with your heels to the back of a wall. Which parts are touching the wall?

If you can’t put your shoulders and head against the wall, you already have or are becoming “the turtle.” Your back is rounding, head is moving down and forward. Due to this “shrinking” you are throwing off your balance and typically can’t lift your feet properly and start to shuffle. See where that is or becomes a problem?

So one great exercise would be just that, stand with your heels touching the wall, lengthen your body and push your shoulders to the wall and the back of your head. Keep your chin tucked and neck long. It’s OK if it doesn’t work immediately.

Many times with time, work and dedication you can get your posture back. I know you will feel a lot better and your back will thank you.

If you can’t get your heels to the wall, make yourself tall and slowly bring your feet back. In most cases with time you will get there.

In all my exercise classes, I work on balance, no matter what ages I am teaching. Even though I know it, it still amazes me that by working on it, your balance will actually come back quickly — maybe not what it used to be, but a whole lot better than what it was.

Let’s start with proper posture: stand nice and tall, feet about hip width apart. With soft knees (do not lock them), lengthen your spine. Keep your shoulders down and back, and your neck long and in extension of your spine. Also keep your head tall like someone is pulling from the top middle of your skull to the ceiling.

Even with shoes on, spread your toes as much as you can. You should be able to wiggle them.

Now have a chair or a table nearby, only as a “safety blanket,” focus on standing tall and don’t forget to breathe.

Now shift to one leg and lift other foot off the ground, just a little bit. Try not to touch the chair or table, but do so if needed. Even if you have to “reset” yourself numerous times, that’s OK.

Just keep trying. Do the same with the other leg. It’s normal that one leg will be easier than the other, but work them both the same.

If this becomes easy, lift your knee up. How about leaning forward a bit and lift your leg to the back? Whatever you do, safety is always first.

Keep trying, continue to work on your posture, keep your muscles strong and if it’s too hard to do on your own, there are stretch and balance classes and yoga classes that can help.

Keep working on it and don’t give up. There will be good balance days and bad balance days (that’s when I tell my class that the wind is blowing a lot!)

Keep trying, keep moving, eat healthy and be kind to one another.

Ester Hoeben Marsh is Health & Fitness Director JF Hurley family YMCA