We know we are not in balance when we stumble or fall. That is loss of balance in the moment.
But…did you know that you use balance to be in the upright position ALL THE TIME? Most of us don’t spend our days falling to the ground, so does that mean we have “good” balance? Well, it depends on how you’re generating it!
Every day I see backs arched, shoulders hunched, or heads forward because to them, that is upright. These positions are how people are balancing. What I see is so subtle that only someone who observes them for years can spot them (for instance, people with knee pain often lock their knees inadvertently.) So, follow this to its conclusion: what happens to our bones and muscles when we walk around in those postures? Eventually arthritis and muscle aches happen from years of overuse and poor habits we didn’t even know we had!
So then what? Many of us will try strengthening and stretching exercises. We might feel better for a little while, but then we go right back to standing, walking, reaching, and sitting the way we always have.
Guess what changes? Bupkis.
And now newer methods are calling for “core training”. But holding our core only makes our muscles work harder to move. We get so busy holding that we can’t allow ourselves to fall gracefully (and safely!) These patterns don’t keep us from falling, they keep us from moving. As my teacher Ralph Strauch once said, “Stability is mobility, not rigidity.” That’s the truth!
Think of it like this: one year olds who are new walkers fall all the time. They don’t get hurt, they just get up and keep going (trust me, they are not “holding their cores” because they have almost no muscle strength yet!) They also are not afraid of falling: they walk, they fall. They stand, they fall. They don’t hold their breath. They aren’t thinking about how to get there, they’re thinking about where they’re going!
Rather than strengthening to prevent the inevitable, I believe that we should “make friends with the floor.” Learn to get down (and up!!) easily. Learn to know where you are in space so that if you do go down, you’re more likely to avoid injury.
If you are interested in exploring this idea, come to my new 10 week class at the Westchester Senior Center starting October 5th. This is a very gentle class starting in chairs. Contact the center at: 310 649-3317 if you would like to register. And as always: contact me directly if you have any questions!