Blind balance


A cardinal rule of blogging is to cite only just-published articles. Timeliness is next to godliness. Guys, guys … I know that. But I can’t help mentioning this New York Times article, “Preserving a Fundamental Sense: Balance,” written a year and a half ago by Jane Brody. It changed my life, well, my yoga balance anyway.

Essentially, Brody discusses the three ways we control our balance: your eyes, your feet, and your vestibular system (aka your inner ear). In the article, there’s a test: Stand on one foot, cross your arms, close your eyes, and set a timer. How long can you balance (before toppling or opening the eyes)? The average time dropped by age, highlighting the way oldsters tend to fall more:

20 to 49 years old: 24 to 28 seconds.

50 to 59 years: 21 seconds.

60 to 69 years: 10 seconds.

70 to 79 years: 4 seconds.

80 and older: most cannot do it at all.

Note: Do it barefoot (shoes make it too easy).

I’m primarily a visual balancer (and secondarily a foot gripper with toes that some find disturbingly mobile). I realized this during vrksasana (tree pose) in class. If I were in the front row, close to the white wall, it was much harder to balance than if I were farther back, with more depth and solid objects to focus on. Gazing at the wall, a blank space, was akin to being blind.

Since I read this article, I’ve practiced blind balance almost daily. Huge improvement. So, take the Brody test and see where you stand.

Photo: steph.A

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