Category Archives: Bodies In Motion

Bodies in Motion: Sweet Wisdom in Fawn Pose by Crystal Cooper

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The shifting of the seasons whispers the secret of change. However alchemizing these times may be, empowering tools abound. Despite tumultuous feelings that may be prompted by external entities within, our own force for change exists. Slowing down, creating space, and prioritizing energy for self-care are sustaining ways to positively take control. Seeking alternatives to stressful reaction in these times of flux, we can shift our focus to being kind, gentle, and sweet with ourselves and others. We can seek further alternative solutions by looking to nature and healing traditions for guidance and wisdom. One who manifests the medicine of gentle kindness is the fawn. To embody these virtues, we can look to yoga.

Fawn pose is an informal derivative of deer pose. Intuitively seeming more inward and sweetly nurturing in nature, fawn pose involves a gentle forward fold over bent legs. It welcomes a stretch of the hips, and a moment of supported rest.

Imagined as a spring creature, the symbolism of fawn speaks to the promise of new beginnings. With their delicate, growing legs, the essence of patience and tender determination can be gleaned. Looking at the world with big, innocent eyes, the fawn instills peace through its perspective. We can take these lessons into our yoga practice to find even more inspiration.

Fawn pose is a seated, grounding position that provides a supported and connected feeling to earth. It is said that our life of emotions is stored in the hips, and being at the center of our body, it is easy to feel the many tensions we may hold there. Hip opening poses offer the opportunity to breathe fresh air and circulation into the deep parts of us. Physically, the stretching can feel intense, and past emotional pains can rise to the surface.  Included in the pose is a twist, known for increasing circulation, gently cleansing organs, and aligning the spine. Moving into autumn, when energy flow can become stagnant in the body, twists are ideal for stimulating the kidneys to keep systems vital. A relaxing and comforting forward fold is the final placement in fawn pose, allowing a moment of calm and stillness.

An initial step in beginning a yoga practice is to connect breath and body while allowing silence. It is wise to begin with a moving, energizing sequence such as sun salutations for strengthening and to prepare the body for flexibility. Moving into a cooler season, it is even more important to warm up before getting into stretching poses. However, because it is such a gentle pose, it would not be harmful to begin with fawn. To allow more ease for stiff or inflexible areas, sitting on a pillow or folded towel can make seated positions more accessible.

By sitting on the ground, the connection between the earth and the sitz bones of the buttocks is realized. One can almost press against the ground, allowing the spine to be tall, and with a big inhale, lift through the crown of the head.

Letting the knees fall out to the sides, the bottoms of the feet are brought together. With the left leg remaining in this position, the right is rotated, still bent, in the opposite direction so that the right foot is outward. The left foot rests on the top of the right leg. The right hand is placed on the right foot and the left is placed on the left knee.

Using the hands to press, the torso of the body is gently twisted to face straight over the right leg. A deep inhale and exhale here opens and relaxes the shoulders while the top of the head remains tall.  Remaining here, the spectrum of ease or difficulty present in the stretch may be observed. With another big inhale, growing even taller through the spine, and bending at the hips to protect the low back, one comes into a forward fold toward the right leg. The true limits of flexibility must be respected here, but also met to encourage growth.

While in the pose, breath and positive change is invited into those deep, dark emotions that may have been held in place here. Lightness is invoked. It is time to be easier on ourselves.  Breathing into the places being stretched, from the legs, hips, kidneys, up the spine, and into the chest through the shoulders, rejuvenation is allowed. Playing with the lightness to be found in this pose, and with the face perhaps leaning close to the foot—kiss (or blow one to) your toes!  Bless your path: how far you’ve come, all the places you’ll go. The forehead may be rested upon the groin, or each cheek feeling a kiss from the earth. Once the pose has been fully enjoyed on this side, the legs are switched to the other side, mirroring the placements.

In connecting with fawn pose, one may instill grace in the approaching autumnal period of preparation and rest. By including it in your yoga practice, the peace and lessons gleaned may synergize throughout life. With new or unknown endeavors, it is all right to be cautious and go slow.  But as the fawn would also teach, it is important to be curious and playful! Experiment within the pose to find new opening: while still sitting straight, you can bend side-to-side, lift the arms and bend, let the head lean to each side for opening through the neck, lift the pelvis up to stretch the front thighs, or go into a related pose, such as fire log or pigeon. Lighten up, be gentle, and harbor a delicate communion with the surrounding beauty that is.

Crystal Cooper has called Marquette, MI home for a decade. Her communion with the northwoods deepened upon beginning yoga in 2013. Passionate about natural healing modalities as well as personal and global sustainability, Crystal advocates yoga and other resiliency-promoting actions within the community.

Reprinted with permission from the Fall 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. All rights reserved.

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Bodies in Motion: Direct Connection—Yoga in Nature, Crystal Cooper

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Breathe in. You are here, in this body, at this time. You are aware of and immersed in your surroundings. Perhaps you’ve arrived stressed, scared, weak, or in need. A peaceful simplicity welcomes you. Breathe out. Why not unplug, unwind, reset, recharge? Where? The porch, the beach, the woods, the mountains. All viable options are yours for the indulging.

This time you choose to flee to the wilds, submerging yourself into the elements. It feels sneaky, thrilling, fearless, or empowering. The mind is silent and the senses vital here. Now you can feel with the subtle, deeper parts of yourself. It is quiet in a different way. The present sounds are more alive. The surrounding scents invite you to remember to smell them. You realize you are holding the tensions of the day in your body, and that you can release them. Observing other living beings, you realize the grass and bird hold nothing but what is essential.

You move into downward-facing dog pose, pressing your hands and feet into the wood, grass, soil, or rock. Breathing in, you fill to your capacity, then exhale. The earth is pressing back, supporting you. Your body is being rejuvenated—the stresses and pressures of the day and your life being gently released or powerfully pushed out. Fully released and truly connected to this space, you receive a glimpse of understanding that you are indeed one with all.

. . .

We make choices every day, every moment. Time and energy are utilized for all that life requires and offers. How mindfully and intentionally are these resources prioritized? Consider the idea of taking back our time and energy from those entities that abduct it, deviation for the greatest good. What a wily, wholesome way to protest the perpetual adversity faced, rallying for our inherent life force.

Cleansing and growing the connection to our vitality, we can practice yoga outside, additionally healing the human connection to earth. This is good work. This is an individual grassroots movement to be built upon in times to come. This foundation gratifies immediately and long-term, fortifying personal resilience. Immersed in a natural yogic practice, one does not require proof or over-thinking—the facts of goodness and righteousness are felt, known.

Yoga means union, the harmony of awareness and intention, body and mind, soul and earth.

Physically, yoga can allow vast synergistic opportunities—oxygenating tissues, lubricating joints, and restoring and strengthening subtle, vital connections throughout the body. A yoga practice begins with the breath and mental presence. No matter the origin of one’s practice, the purpose is an honest, focused communion. This can begin in the living room with a book or Youtube video, in a studio on the mat, or simply with gravity, the earth, and your body.

Once an understanding of the poses exists, like words, they are sequentially placed to make an intentional sentence. Each sentence, or stream of poses, is mindfully carried out to compose a paragraph, eventually telling the story of your yoga practice. Within this story line exist possibilities to get curious, experimental, creative, and playful!

Life offers us the occasion to be in our bodies and to go be out in the world.

We can reproduce our own energy, free of charge. No flexibility, strength, or shape is required. These qualities are inherently cultivated through each small, practical step of the practice. Sustainability on a large scale begins with reviving our sovereignty on an individual level. Allowing our leadership to shine through in our personal choices, yoga can act as a brilliant mirror throughout life.

Crystal Cooper has called Marquette, MI home for a decade. Her communion with the northwoods deepened upon beginning yoga in 2013. Passionate about natural healing modalities as well as personal and global sustainability, Crystal advocates yoga and other resiliency-promoting actions within the community.

Reprinted with permission from the Summer 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

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What’s HIIT All About?

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Want to reverse the impact of aging? Improve your glucose metabolism? Increase your heart health and aerobic capacity? Would you like to burn more calories in less time, and enjoy yourself in the process? Then HIIT may be for you!

HIIT (high intensity interval training) simply requires alternating short bouts of intensive activity (such as thirty seconds or so) with longer intervals (three or four minutes) of less intensive activity. This can be any activity you choose, so no special training or equipment is required.

For example, if you’re fit enough to jog, you could intersperse short jogs within a longer brisk walk. If you’re more sedentary, you might take a leisurely stroll and briefly walk faster from time to time during it.

HIIT dates back to Olympic athletes at least as early as 1912; however, it has only become popular for the average exerciser more recently. And scientific studies have followed, providing evidence of HIIT’s many benefits. For instance, Mayo Clinic researchers found HIIT appears to alter cellular DNA in such a way that one’s muscles become able to produce more energy. It prompts new muscle growth too.

Mayo Clinic researchers have also compared HIIIT, resistance training and combined training in a twelve-week study. All three improved cardio respiratory health, lean body mass and insulin sensitivity, however “only high-intensity and combined training improved aerobic capacity and mitochondrial function for skeletal muscle. Decline in mitochondrial content and function are common in older adults…Exercise training significantly enhanced the cellular machinery responsible for making new proteins. That contributes to protein synthesis, thus reversing a major adverse effect of aging.”(1)

In fact, the improvement in mitochondrial functioning, which usually decreases with age, was even more marked in the over-65 participant group–69 percent improvement, as compared to 49 percent in the 18-to-30-year-old group.

It’s important to check in with your doctor before starting a new workout routine, especially if you have a chronic health condition or haven’t been exercising regularly. To help prevent injury, start slowly rather than rush into a workout that might be too strenuous. Mayo Clinic specialists suggest starting with just one to two higher intensity intervals during each workout. Slow it down if you feel you’re overdoing it; then challenge yourself to vary the pace as your stamina increases.

Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center Co-Director Dr. Edward Laskowski cautions HIIT programs need to be carefully designed as higher impact activities aren’t a good fit for everyone, “Especially those with a musculoskeletal injury, a poor musculoskeletal foundation or improper movement patterns. But low-impact HIIT options include bicycling, elliptical trainer or water running activities to provide an aerobic exercise challenge without significant joint or impact load. And the intensity, frequency and progression of each program can be tailored to a patient’s diagnosis and abilities.”(2)

Also, Dr. Laskowski explains, “There’s solid evidence that older, less active, overweight, and obese individuals can benefit from HIIT training. HIIT has also been shown to be very safe and effective in patients with heart disease and type 2 diabetes.”(3)

This doesn’t mean you should do HIIT daily though. Many experts recommend keeping it to once or twice a week, alternating light to moderate exercise on other days so your bones and muscles get the time they need to rebuild. But keep in mind that to noticeably improve your muscle strength, you’ll need to include resistance training in your routine twice per week.

But perhaps best of all, HIIT seems to help many people exercise regularly on an ongoing basis. Why? Many find it makes their exercise more fun! Researchers have noted study participants’ preference for HIIT and their self-reporting that they’re more likely to stick with routines that include it. So if you’re not doing HIIT, consider choosing a favorite type of exercise and adapting it to your HIIT needs!

(1)https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-discovers-high-intensity-aerobic-training-can-reverse-aging-processes-in-adults/
(2)https://www.mayoclinic.org/medical-professionals/physical-medicine-rehabilitation/news/sprint-rest-repeat-exploring-the-benefits-of-high-intensity-interval-training/mac-20431116
(3) Ibid.

Sources:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/why-interval-training-may-be-the-best-workout-at-any-age/art-20342125
https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-discovers-high-intensity-aerobic-training-can-reverse-aging-processes-in-adults/
https://www.womenshealth.com.au/hiit-training-anti-aging-benefits Aug. 1 2018 https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/interval-training/art-20044588
https://www.mayoclinic.org/why-interval-training-may-be-the-best-workout-at-any-age/art-20342125
https://www.mayoclinic.org/medical-professionals/physical-medicine-rehabilitation/news/sprint-rest-repeat-exploring-the-benefits-of-high-intensity-interval-training/mac-20431116
https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-discovers-high-intensity-aerobic-training-can-reverse-aging-processes-in-adults/

Reprinted with permission from the Spring 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

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Bodies in Motion: Snow Biking My Way, Michelle Gill

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When I think about what inspires me the most to mountain bike, road bike, or snow bike, it’s just being outdoors. I love the fresh air on my face and body, the smell of the leaves, fresh earth, or fresh cut grass in the air, the beautiful shades of greens and blues seen in the trees and lakes, the sound of laughter among friends—I love being outdoors in almost all weather conditions. Therefore, winter opens up a fabulous new opportunity for biking called snow biking or fat biking.

My husband and I own twenty acres just outside of Marquette where we snow bike as much as possible all winter. Since we don’t own a snowmobile or groomer, we manually groom the trails ourselves by snowshoeing them. This can be a lot of work on our eleven different loops, but it is also great exercise! It’s not as simple as just going for a casual snowshoe. When grooming, you have to go over sections multiple times, and bank corners where needed. This doesn’t produce the same quality of bike trail as professionally groomed trails. In fact, it’s harder to snow bike on trails that are manually groomed, and every time it snows significantly you have to re-groom. However, it’s worth it to be able to step outside your home and ride.

Between snowshoeing to groom trails and the actual riding, winter snow biking on our trails is a major workout. Our trails are on a gradual hill so no matter which way you go, you will be climbing at some point. We usually start at a half-hour ride and work our way up to an hour. At times, snow biking can be fast in the straighter sections, but rides on most of them are slower and more challenging, with trails curving all through our glorious woods. During the work week, going for a ride right after getting home works best for us. This usually requires the use of headlamps or flash lights mounted to the bikes. Night riding is a little more challenging, but so enjoyable under the clear, star-filled sky! Winter snow biking on our trails also helps us master riding at slow speeds, cornering, and balancing. It’s made me a better biker for summer trail riding.

To prepare for winter snow biking, you should have bar mitts if your hands normally get cold in the winter. With bar mitts on your bike, you only need to wear a light pair of gloves. On our trails, I don’t recommend clipping into your bike pedals. We wear boots to keep our feet warm and dry. As far as clothing, we wear the same garments we would wear for cross country skiing or running in cold temperatures-layers, breathable garments, wind protection, helmet, goggles if it’s really cold… the usual winter gear required for snow biking.

If you want to try snow biking, area bike shops offer rentals. I recommend you try renting first if you’re not sure about it. The many trails in and around the city of Marquette are beautifully scenic and perfectly groomed. In addition to riding recreationally, snow bike races exist throughout winter and across the Upper Peninsula. Check online or at any bike shop for more information about snow biking or racing. Snow biking is just another wonderful sport to enjoy in our beautiful north woods. Have fun!

ice biking, Gills

Financial adviser and former human resources director at Marquette Area Public Schools Michelle Gill grew up in the western U.P. and has called Marquette home since 1994. She and her husband David enjoy living an active lifestyle, playing outdoors as much as possible.

Excerpted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Winter 2018-19 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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Bodies in Motion: Dead River Derby, by Amber Kinonen

DRD

A muscled shoulder barrels into my chest, reeling me backwards. My butt smacks and then slides across the concrete surface. I scramble to my feet, but the same sweat-glistened shoulder flashes toward me again. I spin away only to have another opponent send me to the floor once more. However, I don’t give up. Instead, I think to myself, “Challenge accepted!” and rise. Even though this may sound like something from an MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) match, it captures less than ten seconds of a roller derby bout.

In 2012, I was invited to skate for Marquette’s Dead River Derby, also known as “DRD.” At first, I was surprised by the perception of derby girls: They are tough, wear booty shorts with ripped up stockings, throw elbows and fists, and have tattoos. As a teacher, scout leader, and mother of two, I was not sure I would fit in. Now, years later, I know that roller derby is no longer the banked track where women dramatically throw each other around. There is an abundance of contact; however, athleticism, strategy, and safety are valued. In fact, derby is one of the fastest growing sports for women with more than 1,200 leagues worldwide and attempts being made for it to qualify as an Olympic event. Why are so many choosing to play?

First are the reasons not to play. One is time. Derby requires hours of drills on skates to avoid injury, the complex gameplay takes practice to understand, and a league’s existence depends on members’ volunteerism. Another issue is money. Derby can be expensive as lots of gear is required for safety. Finally, injuries occur. Derby carries the same risks as other contact sports such as football and hockey.

However, there are also many benefits to playing. The most obvious is exercise. Practices are demanding with a mixture of stretching, footwork, endurance drills, core body exercises, and strategy skills. Therefore, many parts of the body are strengthened. A lot is done in a short amount of time, but the variation and support from teammates makes it not only bearable but enjoyable. In fact, I have to force myself to exercise on a bike or treadmill, but I eagerly burn calories on my skates for hours at a time. When I miss practice, my body feels it, and when I finish practice, my body is strong.

Other benefits are not so obvious. Derby allows a range of women to be involved. Some are thin and others curvy. Round booties can stop jammers, tiny ones can evade blockers, and anyone can choose to participate in a league. Women of varying ages can also participate. For example, the average age of skaters in the DRD is forty-three, which is higher than many other leagues. Backgrounds are also wide-ranging. Membership consists of teachers, business owners, accountants, college students, and stay-at-home moms. There is a place for anyone with determination. As we work to become an effective team, the diversity provided by derby fosters comradery unlike any experienced elsewhere.

Derby also requires the brain to work in ways a person may not be used to. I equate it to a game of fast-paced chess with contact. A skater must think critically and quickly. Skaters have to make gameplay happen in a matter of seconds to gain advantage over the other team. The track can be confusing because so much is happening; calculating and executing strategy requires awareness, mental strength, and focus.

Another benefit is a sense of accomplishment. When I first started, I couldn’t stand on my skates. Every training session was a challenge, but if I could race around the track a little faster or jump higher than the week before, I felt good. Now, I’m trying to jump the apex or pull off a pummel horse. I still leave practice awed by what my forty-one-year-old body is capable of accomplishing.

In addition, most people think that being tough indicates a lack of fear. However, derby has taught me that being tough means being afraid but doing what scares you anyway. It is a sport where even after years of practice, my fear of failure and injury is still there. Nevertheless, I skate. When a game is over, regardless of performance, I am satisfied that even though I may have been so nervous I gave myself a fever beforehand, I got on the track and worked my hardest.

Derby is not about a bunch of rogues who throw theatrical punches on the track. It is so much more. My children get to watch their mom, an athlete, working with an eclectic group of women as part of a team. They see hard work and determination from a mom who gets knocked down but, most importantly, gets back up, over and over again.

Amber Kinonen skates under the name of “Ripper” for Marquette’s Dead River Derby. She has been skating for five years. In her non-derby life, she teaches English at Bay College in Escanaba, Michigan and spends her remaining time momming her two children, Mason and Grace.

Excerpted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Fall 2018 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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Bodies in Motion: The Take-It-Anywhere Summer Workout

With warmer temperatures and longer days, hopefully you’re finding more time to get outside! Along with your favorite summer activities, I always recommend adding light stretching and strengthening to keep the whole body in check.

If you’re looking for a quick, balanced workout, try the “Basic Five” Pilates Mat exercises. In under ten minutes, this routine will have you feeling stronger and longer. And the best part? You can take it with you wherever your summer sweeps you…

THE HUNDRED
Start lying on your back with your arms by your sides and your legs extended (Modification: knees bent, feet on the mat). Take a deep inhale.

On your exhale, lift your head and the tops of your shoulders to come into an ab curl. Simultaneously float both your legs and arms a few inches above the mat.

Pump your straight arms by your sides, inhaling for five pumps, and exhaling for five.

After ten full breaths, or 100 pumps, you are done, my friend!

ROLL UP
Lie on your back with your legs extended and your arms reaching up toward the ceiling.

On an inhale, start to curl up slowly, trying to articulate each vertebra as it leaves the mat.

Exhale to finish your curl, rounding your spine over your legs while your fingers reach toward your toes.

Inhale as you tuck your tailbone underneath you and slowly lower your spine back to the mat, one vertebra at a time.

When the tips of your shoulder blades hit the mat, exhale to lower yourself back to your starting position.

Repeat five to eight times.

SINGLE LEG CIRCLE
Lie on your back with your legs extended and your arms down by your sides.

Extend your right leg up toward the ceiling, straightening it as much as your hamstrings will allow.

Inhale as you take the right leg across the midline of your body and then exhale as you return to your starting position. Repeat this five times and then switch the direction of your leg circle.

When you reverse the circle, inhale as your leg travels away from you, and exhale as it crosses the midline to return to your starting position. Repeat this five times.

Place your right leg down, and complete the whole series on the left leg.

ROLLING LIKE A BALL
Take a seat on the mat, floor, beach…wherever you are. Draw your heels in toward your sitting bones with your feet in a V shape. Your knees will be wide, like a frog.

Wrap your arms tightly around your legs so that each hand is on the opposite shin.

From here, “scoop” your belly to flex your spine and tilt back to float the feet off of the mat, floor or beach. Try to stabilize here for at least a moment.

Inhale as you tip back to the tips of your shoulder blades.

Exhale as you roll back up to your starting position, but don’t let your feet hit the mat.

Repeat five to eight times. And have fun!

SPINE STRETCH
Take a seat with your legs extended wide in front of you, toes flexed back toward your shins.

Reach your arms toward the sky. Inhale fully here.

On your exhale, start by tucking your chin to your chest, and then slowly curl yourself down toward your legs – vertebra by vertebra.

Inhale to stack yourself back up to your starting position.

Repeat five to eight times.

So how do you feel? Hopefully energized and ready to enjoy summer. If you have any questions on the Basic Five or other ways to keep your body balanced, you know where to find me – info@birdonaperch.com.

IMPORTANT: When participating in any movement practice, please remember to listen to your body and avoid exercises that don’t feel safe. If you are suffering from an injury or a medical condition, please consult your doctor before engaging in any new activities.

Allison Cherrette is a PMA-certified Pilates instructor and a graduate of the Advanced Teacher Training program through The Pilates Center of Boulder. She owns Bird On A Perch, a Marquette Pilates studio offering group and privates lessons on the Mat, Reformer, Tower and Chair.

Excerpt from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Summer 2018 Issue, copyright 2018.

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Bodies in Motion: Balancing Act, by Kevin McGrath

I’m watching the Super Bowl and the running back takes the hand-off, racing to the right side where he sharply cuts upfield through the hole that his lineman opened for him. As he emerges from the hole, it quickly closes with a linebacker exploding into him. He astonishingly spins out of the tackler’s arms, keeping his footing and darting another five yards out of bounds, getting a key first down for his team.

Two nights later, I’m watching my favorite hockey team, the Detroit Red Wings, on TV when Dylan Larkin catches a crisp pass on his stick, leaning hard into the defenseman who is all over him, all the while firing a bullet at the opposing team’s net.

The next night, I’m at my Marquette City basketball game. At age fifty-nine, I play on a team with mostly 35 to 38-year-olds. We’re playing against the youngest team in the league, whose players average 28 years. We get a turnover and start a break-away during which a quick pass comes my way. It’s slightly deflected, causing me to spin my upper torso while running in the other direction. I lose my footing and fall hard to the ground as the ball bounces off my arm and out of bounds.

All of these situations have something in common, something that most of us take for granted – balance! As Wikipedia explains, “In biomechanics, balance is the ability to maintain the line of gravity (vertical line to the center of mass) of the body within the base of support with minimal postural support.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balance_(ability))

Many factors come into play to achieve good balance, which requires the coordination of input from multiple sensory systems. These systems include but are not limited to sense organs, as well as pressure and vibratory senses, skin, joints, plus visual senses that all work in unity, detecting changes in spatial orientation in relation to the base of support, whether the body moves or the base is altered in some way. Environmental factors such as surface and lighting conditions, ear infections, alcohol, some medications, and other drug use also impact balance.

As important as balance is, most people take it for granted. Have you ever misjudged the height of a curb while walking down the street, or caught your shoe on a raised crack in the sidewalk? There are various levels of stability, and while as an athlete, my ability to stay upright is pretty good, I’m still quite impressed by some of the people I see paddle boarding, snowboarding, surfing, downhill skiing or acrobatic skateboarding. Nonetheless, as with muscle tone, our balance typically declines with age. For example, my elderly aunt misjudged the second step going up to my brother’s house, lost her balance, and fell of the porch, breaking her hip.

As a lifelong athlete and a former coach, it is clear to me that my balance isn’t what it used to be. I also realize there are a slew of ways to improve it. One favorite that comes to mind is the dot drill. I place four dots forming a square on the floor, roughly three feet apart with another dot in the middle of them all. I begin by standing on the middle dot and then jumping with both feet to the upper right dot and back to the middle, then to the lower right dot and back to middle, followed by the lower left dot and returning to the middle, then up to the upper left dot and back to the middle. I repeat this clockwise sequence three times, followed by the same movements in a counter-clockwise sequence three times. Once I’m able to do that confidently without pause, I work toward doing it with a one-legged hop, changing legs when I change direction from clockwise to counterclockwise.

Zumba, yoga, tai chi or any other fitness class with trained professionals able to assist you in realizing your goals can also help you make great strides in improving your balance. Key here is finding what works best for you, whether done at home or with a group.

For me, quality of life is essential, and that doesn’t happen by doing nothing. In order to improve, you must practice. That’s a good reminder to me. While we may automatically pay more attention to having a healthier diet, or working on muscle tone as we age, it’s extremely important to work on balance improvement too. Our quality of life lies in the balance.

Kevin McGrath believes that life is a balancing act, physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. He can be found stumbling his way through it.

Reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Spring 2018 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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