What better way to start the New Year than a post about balance? Though StableMovement Physical Therapy is a physical therapy boutique, the approach to healing, health, fitness, and wellness is holistic. That is both at gross physical level and in the subtler realms impacting overall health and wellbeing.
As the New Year dawns and we enter into it, we sincerely hope to give our best and that demands a balanced life. What do I mean by balanced life? Well let’s just say it is equanimity in all things we undertake. Imagine a beam balance sitting on a fulcrum, and based on where you move on this beam, you could tip it over or be agile, skilled, and light to keep it balanced so it does not hit ground and stays balanced in the air. Now, each individual will have a unique skill set and comfort level as to how far out along one side of the beam one can go and yet not tip the balance beam over. Get the picture? I have worded this out since it is not only in the physical balance, albeit mental balance as well that is involved here. In other words, balance at gross and subtle levels. At a certain point gross gets subtle and subtle keeps getting subtler and rarer (like water particles turn to steam and when this is further heated the particles move further apart as density decreases). When that happens, movement suddenly becomes very effective and balance is the outcome of this. Do what you may, you will not tip the beam balance! The stability we all seek in movement which results in a balanced life.
Physical therapists employ a variety of exercises to promote physical balance, though that is not the sole purpose of such exercise. It is truly imbibed when we are in equilibrium (stable) moment after passing moment. Initially, it is not a state of passivity, it is the constant striving or fine tuning (dynamic adjustments made to maintain balance). With practice however, each level of challenge gets easier and we seek a new zenith to work towards (as it is said, sky is the limit- notice the analogy here---the higher up you go, the lower the density). As a physical therapist, I see success in both being close to the center and staying in static balance through fine tuning, as well as how much further out you can reach along the beam balance and still return to the center. It takes a very different skill set to accomplish these two, however they both demand presence and alertness.
Stability is the quality that closely resembles equanimity. In other words, stability is that dynamic state in which one has complete command over all the faculties to make the split second decision with only the goal in mind and not the result or outcome (i.e. looking forward to future) and where there is no space for brooding on the past. Our bodies/form is the best instrument to realize this truth. Balance poses in Yoga without use of props, let’s one go deeper inside and master nuances with utmost clarity and calmness, so that such equipoise may be reproduced with mindfulness. Need help? To clarify this concept, it is easier to make use of equipment like the rocker board, BOSU or balance disc, Airex cushion, etc. and explore the gross adjustments initially and experience the finer tuning through smaller weight shifts. As the mind calms, it gets easier to be present for subtler adjustments. By doing best in whatever you do, you subtly invigorate people around you to do the same. In his study about Vibrational Medicine, Dr. Richard Gerber mentions of cells within our body that are capable of receiving and emitting light energy(ultraviolet light).
Vrikshasana is one- leg stance pose that demands stability and is a wonderful asana to go within and explore the workings of the subtler realm of thoughts.
• When one balances on one leg, it shifts the center of gravity of the body, as the weight bearing line shifts to the stance leg. The non-stance leg is lifted higher and abducted at the hip which changes the dynamics and muscles recruited to maintain standing balance.
• Lumbar spine stability in sagittal and coronal planes, pelvic stability in the coronal plane and overall ankle stability (in all three planes- sagittal, coronal and transverse) is of paramount importance.
• The gastroc-soleus, tibialis anterior, peronei and toe flexors, provide ankle and foot stability.
• The gluteus medius/minimus, TFL, hip adductors keep the pelvis stabilized in the coronal plane, the psoas and gluteus maximus stabilize the pelvis in sagittal plane.
• The trunk stability is through transversus abdominus and the thoraco-lumbar fascia, rectus abdominus and erector spinae co-contraction.
• The scapulae are symmetrically stabilized through serratus anterior, trapezii, and rhomboids.
• Stability at the shoulder during overhead arm extension is through rotator cuff muscles and co-contraction of biceps and triceps.
• When ligaments are in optimal condition, the skeletal alignment ideal, and muscles supple yet strong, the harmonious working of these results in pain-free, stress –free, stable posture.
Wishing you all a Happy, Healthy, and Stable New Year. Make that Ecstatic, Lively, and Balanced New Year!
Ami Gandhi is a licensed physical therapist in the state of California. She is the owner of StableMovement Physical Therapy, a small boutique practice in San Jose that offers patient centered, one-on-one, hands-on physical therapy.