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Instep Dance Magazine Articles

Reprints of monthly column as first appearing in Instep Dance Magazine (no longer in print).

April 2002

Developing Better Balance

By Rick Allen, DC

"Better health leads to better dancing."

Let's apply the basic science of balance from last month's article to improving your balance. This will help your everyday activities and, of course, athletic performance, including dancing. As we age, we often avoid movements that require balance. That is, we avoid positions in which we feel unsteady. Unfortunately, we may be setting ourselves up for a fall, because balance is definitely a skill that improves with practice and, conversely, gets worse with disuse. It's use it or loose it.

Recently, I found this to be true for myself. I started taking a yoga class that included balancing on one leg while progressively lifting the other leg up to the ankle, knee and hip. I managed to do that with only a few tips to the side -- and it definitely got better with a few weeks of practice. But then the instructor extended her leg straight out horizontally, while maintaining her balance. That was more than I could do, no matter how hard I tried! However, maybe, just maybe, I will be able to get it in my next life.

Five Balance Exercises

To get started improving your balance, I recommend that you take a few minutes each day to do one, two or more of the following five balance exercises that are demonstrated by Portland dancer Miranda Willis.

One Leg Stand demo photo

The first two exercises can be done almost anywhere and do not require any special equipment; the last three require simple equipment that is available from most chiropractic, physical therapy and even sporting goods stores.

1. One Legged Stand
Try the one leg stand as I did in my yoga class. Stand in a doorway or next to a solid piece of furniture to catch yourself should you start to tip over. Lift your leg progressively up to the ankle, knee and hip. Over the next four weeks, try holding this position for progressively longer times: 5, 10, 20 30 and 60 seconds. Don't try extending your lifted leg horizontally without expert help, such as a yoga instructor.

One Leg Bent demo photo

2. One Legged Stand with Bent Leg
Now add a partial bend of the supporting leg
and work up to the longer times
with the lifted leg raised progressively higher.

Rocker Board demo photo

3. Rocker Board
Rock forward and backward, then sideways and then diagonally.

Round Rocker Board demo photo

4. Round Rocker Board
Graduate to the round-bottom board that requires more agility to keep the edges from hitting the floor.

Ball on Wall demo photo

5. Ball on the Wall
This exercise is often prescribed for stabilizing the muscles of the back. It also helps your balance, especially if you raise one leg as you roll the ball up and down the wall behind your back.

Next article: Let's check how much your balance has improved with these exercises and apply it to dancing and other sports.

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