Balancing Stick Pose is short, sweet, and simple.
Okay, okay, maybe not so sweet.
But definitely short and simple. Let’s break it down.
Balancing Stick is short:
We only hold this posture for about ten seconds. Get into your deepest expression as soon as you can, so you don’t miss a single millisecond of the many benefits. (Scroll down to see the long list of muscles that are strengthened with Balancing Stick!)
Balancing Stick is simple:
- Stick: In the set-up for this posture, you create a single line from your fingertips down to your toes. A stick. Don’t break the stick as you pivot at the hip of your standing leg. You’re moving like the straight board of a see-saw, leg lifting up as much as your chest drops down. Yes, your goal is to bring your body to parallel, as this is where you’ll reap the most benefits from this posture, but better to keep your arms up with your ears, your lifting leg straight and in line with the rest of your body and only come down a few inches. Class by class, as you build strength, you’ll be able to come down further without losing the integrity of your alignment. Start a stick, stay a stick!
- Balancing: This is the third posture of the Balancing Series, and once again, you are standing on one leg. Just like in Standing Head to Knee and Standing Bow Pulling Pose, your standing leg is strong and solid with your quadriceps and inner thigh and even your glutes contracted. As with the other balancing postures, there’s a tendency to allow your standing leg to bend to “absorb” your body’s attempts to maintain balance while moving (and also because of tight hamstrings!), but you need to consistently keep your leg straight and strong. Balance on a firm foundation as you build strength.
A few other pointers:
- Sometimes students are confused by what it means to look forward and keep chin away from chest in the posture, and they raise their head away from their arms to look forward. As soon as the head is raised, you have compromised the long line of your spine; the stick is “broken.” Your chin shouldn’t be tucked into your chest, but it also shouldn’t be raised. You are looking forward and extending your spine all the way through your neck by moving your eyeballs forward. (Where your eyes go, your body will follow, as we like to say!) If you were standing up straight, you’d be looking for the ceiling, but with your body approaching parallel, look for the big toe of your standing foot in the front mirror.
- Your raised leg is rarely as high as you think it is behind you. Use that leg to drive the posture, lifting it up without letting it bend. As you lift it, your upper body will naturally drop down.
- Very occasionally, the lifting leg is actually too high. To correct this, concentrate on elongating the whole body, fingertips to toes once you get your body close to parallel. Try to touch the front mirror with your pointer fingers; try to touch the back wall with your pointed toes.
- If you have an injured hamstring or lower back, get into the set-up for the posture and hold it with strength, only coming down as far as you can without pain.
- Try to keep your hips level as you come down. The hip of your lifting leg will want to torque away from the ground, much like it wants to in Standing Bow Pulling Pose. Pull your abdominal muscles in and drop the hip of your lifting leg so that your lower abdomen is parallel to the floor.
- Breathe. This is a posture that requires so much strength and focus that it’s common to forget to breathe. 80/20 breathing is a perfect tool in this posture. Take a deep breath as you step forward, and then move 20 percent of the air in your lungs in and out, as slowly and calmly as possible.
- Improves circulation, blood pressure and lung function.
- Strengthens all these muscles: triceps, trapezius, erector spine, intertransversarii, interspinales, transversospinales, psoas, rotator cuff, pectorals, quadriceps, intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of the standing foot and lower leg, hamstrings, prioformis, and gluteal and abdominal muscles. Wow!
See? You don’t want to miss a single moment!
–Ellen Olson-Brown, The Hot Yoga Factory Chelmsford