How often do you have to balance? When do you feel your balance challenged? What do you do when thus challenged: do you hold your arms out to the side? Fix your gaze on something steady? Use props or training wheels?
The ability to balance well is an indicator of a healthy musculoskeletal system. Extra tension, rigidity, and “knots” in the muscles interfere with our proprioception, the main method by which our body stays balanced. Proprioceptors, located throughout our muscles, joints, and connective tissue, communicate to the brain to tell it where our body is in space and how it is moving (such as in a controlled way or falling). When a proprioceptor’s habitat (muscle) is not functioning well because it is tight, this interferes with the proprioceptor’s ability to communicate to the brain. Instead of a clear picture of where your hips and knees and ankles are hanging out while you try to stand on one leg, the picture your brain receives is fuzzy, hence the wobbling and arm waving. This also explains why you should not need your eyes to balance. While vision is useful to tell us about our surroundings, it is not necessary for proprioceptors to send accurate information about the body parts we are made of. When we have a lot of muscle tension, we have to use our eyes to compensate for the fuzzy picture our brain is trying to work with.
We should all be able to hold any yoga pose with our eyes closed and remain perfectly still. We also should all receive a lot more massage. These two indisputable facts could be seen to go hand in hand… If you start seeing your favorite massage therapist more regularly, you may soon notice an improvement in your balance, on the mat and everywhere else.