Balance is a concept that is often very misunderstood in our culture, especially by those looking to have a bit more of it in their lives. And it seems that those folks make up the majority these days…
As it applies to your steadiness, balance is talked about in fitness and wellness magazines, books, blogs, YouTube videos and probably every edition of Readers Digest in the last 30 years…
Unfortunately the advice that is often given is for you to simply stand on one leg…in one way or another…and try to not fall.
Yes, not falling is a nice thing, but that same advice often includes staying stiff…staying still…clenching a muscle here or there… often anything to prevent movement from happening.
Now it is a bit poetic, but it is good to point out that having good balance is in no way the same as being rigid… far from it.
Effective balance is actually the polar opposite of rigidity. It is the ability to effectively interact with the ground and all else that is coming at you in the environment… all while keeping yourself alive, upright and all parts accounted for.
Balance is the ability to react and adjust in a thousand different ways, not simply “stand your ground” and persist in the face of a challenge.
Effective balance is not the lack of highs and lows or stumbles…it is the ability to both engage with and manage them.
Ironically, effective balance has more to do with learning to fall than it has with all out avoiding it. This is especially poignant when you appreciate that the greatest risk for falling in the elderly is actually fear of falling itself. They become to rigid in premeditative anxiety…and they cannot react appropriately.
If you picture the scene of what it takes to keep upright and in the boat when it is managing choppy seas you will further get the idea. That fella trying to be stiff as a rock is going to get knocked overboard perhaps even quicker than the clueless bag of bones who didn’t see the wave coming to begin with.
To stay on that boat you have to work with the waves…not against them.
Now maybe this general misunderstanding of balance has something to do with our cultural inheritance from our Greco-Roman ancestors. After all, they felt very highly of pillars, straight lines, right angles and large things carved in stone… and our apple really hasn’t fallen far from that tree.
But if we really want a good model for balance, it is a tree itself that would do much better than the man-made pillar.
Because provided it has roots as deep as the reach of its branches, and not so much stiffness to it that it cannot give and sway in the wind regardless of the direction it comes from…the tree can survive the storm.
The tree that lacks roots is uprooted… and the tree that is far to rigid will be snapped by that wind.
So let yourself have some wobble… being a statue is not the goal and truly it’s rarely useful when it comes to staying steady.
Just like that tree, the only goal is staying connected to the ground and alive and well into the next moment… regardless of the flailing that may be necessary.
Now of course, being able to stand on one leg and look around is helpful.
But if you want a good life…a comfortable, capable and active one…then you will probably need to ask far more than simply being able to stand on one leg for a moment or three. Probably, you will need to trust that single leg a bit more than that…
If you want to know a bit more about what basic standard of balance that I find is necessary for folks to have an effective level of steadiness through their right and left legs, then click the link below. It is a short video building off the other capacity components I have touched on previously, and it will give you a great idea of what seems to be necessary to have enough steadiness for a comfortable, capable life.
If you have any questions about the above, please do not hesitate to reach out.
Regardless, I hope you find the above helpful, and I hope you are comfortable, able and well.