Balance the edge

Being in balance is an amazingly complex process that our bodies constantly promote, while sitting, standing, walking or just moving.



Being in balance is an amazingly complex process that our body handles at all times - sitting, standing, walking or simply moving. Without balance we would fall. And moving in diverse environments creates the need of very good balance. But as stated in the beginning, it is very complex. Because how do we even define balance? Is it the ability not to fall? Or is it the ability to react to falling - and adapt - in that specific moment?

I think we need a loose definition when we talk about balance, because it consists of so many different functions; visual perception, proprioception and the vestibular system (inner ear).
These three systems are what deliver feedback to your brain about your position in the world.
But from there on you also need to react to that input. Your brain needs to collect this information and send out functional movement responses - adaptations - which ensure that you do not fall.

These movement responses can be of very different nature from each other. Sometimes we react by stabilizing our joints, creating tension in the right places to correct our posture and stay upright. Other times we regain balance by moving out of imbalance. The difference is quite easy to see when we try to balance on rails. Moving slowly will make us stabilize our joints and correct our posture constantly. But when we pick up speed we regain balance constantly by placing our feet and keeping momentum.

I will not pass judgement on which method is better, because both benefit different situations. After all, we are working on diverse movement patterns.

Challenging our balance in a complex and creative way makes our movement foundation a lot better.

Challenging our balance in a complex and creative way makes our movement foundation a lot better.

But when we consider both situations equally important, we must also try to emphasize the different factors that make these movements as they are. Therefore I will try to give a brief overview on how we can work on balance in general, without being too narrow-minded.
So whenever I feel like training, teaching and working on balance, I always try to have these four elements in my mind:

Disorientation, being blindfolded, movement speed, and the surface on which you are moving.

- The first one, disorientation, is a little abstract, because we can become disoriented in many ways.
My idea about disorientation is to get dizzy, maybe not REALLY dizzy, but just enough for you to have to really focus and try to regain balance. This can be done easily, by doing a single or double rotation before initiating movement. Not a rotation as in a flip, but just twisting around your vertical axis. Obviously this is not for newcomers, but it might come in handy when training alone or trying to challenge those individuals with great technique.

 - Blindfolded training is an old acquaintance of mine; I really enjoy getting blindfolded and moving around. The obvious way of using this is while doing balance training on rails, for example. Just by closing your eyes while walking, standing or turning on the rails. There are a lot of different ways you can implement this in your training to make your balance better. Just make sure that the rails are in a safe environment. There is no need to risk serious injuries if you are just out for a quick session of balance. 

- When we talk about speed and balance, it is about the demand for different kinds of movement patterns to keep a steady balance stance or a dynamic one. Which is why a great subject for training overall balance is increasing or decreasing speed. There is not much magic about this, just try to differentiate the pace as you work on your balance. All speed is equally valuable. 

- Surface is important. You have probably heard it a lot of times before; training in the rain is good. But still, we do not really do it that often. Not anymore. But it is still quite good. Walking, standing, running and jumping on different surfaces create a more demanding focus on your proprioception and your anticipation of the landing. This means that you need to be really good at anticipating what is going to happen when you land, and you have to be really good at adjusting you movement to maintain balance if your anticipation was not correct. If you wish, you can create a pretty advanced session using all of these elements - or by simply using a single one for the sake of your own amusement.

These words are only written as a supplement for you as a movement practitioner. If you found something new that is inspiring, take it and use it. If everything is well known to you, maybe you can use this as a refreshing approach to old patterns.

Train wholeheartedly - one love