You don’t have to lose it as you grow older!
In the posts about stability and mobility we’ve referred to balance of the muscles and other tissues around a joint. It”s an important kind of balance, or equilibrium, but generally not what everyone means when they say things like “my balance is really bad” – something we hear quite a lot at the studio.
Wikipedia says: “In biomechanics, balance is an ability to maintain the line of gravity (vertical line from centre of mass) of a body within the base of support with minimal postural sway.” And goes on to add “Maintaining balance requires coordination of input from multiple sensory systems including the vestibular, somatosensory, and visual systems.”
So balance is not a singular, distinct skill, nor is it something that inevitably deteriorates with age. Balance is a combination of senses. Our vestibular system (inner ear) helps us to sense our head position; our somatosensory system includes ‘proprioception‘ and gathers information about our body parts’ positions and movement relative to each other, as well as to the support surface (eg, the ground); our visual system obviously helps us know where we are relative to our surroundings.
In a way, we are always working on balance in Pilates because we are always working on our awareness of our body in space, and our ‘parts’ relative to each other. This awareness is what we referred to in the article “What does ‘Core’ mean?” – and why we’ve written this series of articles. The mobility of your joints helps you to stabilise them, and the ability to stabilise joints is what will allow you to stay in balance. If you want to stand on one leg, you need to have the awareness (internal sense, ‘proprioception’) and the stability to keep the joints from your foot to your head organised in the line of gravity.
The take home:
Balance is a combination of our senses telling us where we are in space and our joints and muscles controlling that position, and that’s one of the reasons that Pilates classes are so great – we’re always working on awareness and control.
As always, let us know if you have any questions.