Stabilize Your Body and Mind

A stabilizing practice to improve our memory, and expand our awareness of our body in space.

Our intention with this balancing practice is to stabilize both physically and mentally, but also to become more agile in both our mind and body.

We can work on a lot of this with just one move: standing on one leg. Amazing, right? The National Institute of Aging recommends that we have some type of balance or stability training in our lives. That’s because it not only helps us improve our memory, it helps us expand our awareness of our body in space. That awareness is called spatial cognition or proprioception, and as we get older we need to work a little harder at retaining it. Especially because falls can spell more frequent and difficult injuries as we age.

If you haven’t balanced in a while, you may find yourself a little shaky during this practice. And that’s OK. Through all of these practices, we’re building muscle and we’re building muscle memory. Remember to be patient with yourself.

When you balance on one leg, and you try to maneuver yourself in space, shakiness is actually an indication that your stabilizing muscles are firing. We all have small stabilizing muscles around our joints, hips, knees, and ankles. As we age, and in North American culture at least, move less and less over time, those muscles grow weaker. The good news is: they can be made stronger through more movement. So if you discover some shakiness as we go through this practice, be happy. It means those stabilizing muscles are waking up and growing stronger.

And there’s more good news, too: when we start to be able to move in a more agile, fluid way instead of a fixed way, guess what happens? Our minds also become more agile. We actually become less insistent on having to have things be a certain way all the time. We’re going to play with all of this today. As we do, let’s pay attention to how our body moves in space, and what our breath is like during certain movement. This is another great opportunity to reconnect with our physical self and expand our mindfulness practice.

And remember: this is supposed to be fun! We’re not in pursuit of perfection here. Throughout this practice, we’ll continue to build our capacity to be in rhythm and therefore better harmony in our overall mind-body system. That includes our emotional body and our senses. Your breath is very important as we go, and I’ll continue to guide you with that.

All right, let’s get started.

Stabilize Your Body and Mind

Stabilize Your Body and Mind

  • 17:00
  1. Standing up, separate your feet. If you’re in a place where you can be barefoot, all the better. We’re going to do the same synchronized body-mind warm-up that we did last session. So here we go: inhale, reach arms forward and up. Spin palms open and exhale, moving arms out and down. Synchronize your breath and movement. Inhale reach up. Exhale reach down.

  2. Inhale, reach up, and on your exhale, sway to your right. Inhale, move back up to center, arms high. Exhale and sway left with a big reach. Inhale, back up to center. Now exhale and sway to your right. Try to take the whole breath to get there. It’s in this way that we synchronize the body and breath. You could even do this move in your office.

  3. Inhale, reach up, exhale and bring your hands to your knees like a baseball player. Pull your bum back in space here. Breathe in. And breathe out. Now reach your arms back. On your inhale we’re going to reach up and slightly back. Now exhale, bending your knees, and reach your arms back. This doesn’t have to be too deep. Focus on synchronizing your breath with this dynamic movement. Reach both arms all the way up and then release your arms by your side.

  4. Standing upright, lift your right leg up and hold with your knee at 90 degrees in front of you. Rest your gaze on something in front of you that is not moving. This will help you work toward balance. If any of this is too much, touch your toes down to the floor and try again. You may notice your upheld leg or foot start to move around a bit. That’s OK. Bring your attention to your left foot, firm on the floor. Just bringing awareness there can help to fire some muscles. Now engage your left quadriceps and your left glutes (the muscles in your butt cheek). Draw your low belly in back toward the spine and imagine you’ve got a corset around your waist. This is stabilizing your body. Stay right here. Steadying your eyes also helps to stabilize your mind. Let’s take three breaths. And now release your foot down to the floor.

  5. Shift weight to your right leg now and lift your left knee up. Again, returning your toes to the floor is OK if you’re feeling unsteady at any time. Keep your gaze steady. Now bring your awareness to your strong right foot on the floor. Really press down through your toes and heels. Engage your right quads and your glutes. Now brace your core by tying up that corset around your middle. Let’s take three deep breaths together. Just notice the breath. If you’re shaking a little, I assure you, you’re not alone. And now let’s have both feet on the floor.

  6. Stand tall. Shifting weight into your right leg, taking the left knee up, now take your left toes back to touch lightly the floor behind you. And now before making any other moves, let’s focus on engaging our standing leg—think stability. Set your gaze and lift your back leg up, outstretched behind you, and lean gently forward with arms outstretched behind you. This is called airplane. Again, this move doesn’t have to be big to count. From here, we’re going to move dynamically a little bit: Lifting your back leg up a little higher, now slowly swing your back leg through and forward. Bring your knee to 90 degrees in front of you again and stretch your arms overhead. It’s OK to shake and wobble. When your arms go back, your leg goes back. And remember: you can always just touch down to regain stability. Simply moving or shifting your weight on to one leg is building strength and stability in that standing leg. Now release your foot to the floor and your arms by your side. Amazing, that’s the simplest thing and I’m out of breath, too.

  7. Now let’s do exactly the same set of moves for our other side. Really engage your left, standing, leg. You need that stable base. Set your gaze for mental stability and take your right leg back, toes down, touching the floor, or toes off the floor—either way. We’re using our body here as an anchor for our mind. This is all about noticing what’s shaking and what’s not. And shaking is OK, remember? Come back up slowly. Reach your arms overhead. Let’s do this two more times to get those stabilizing muscles working. Now release foot to floor and arms by your side. This is true for all of our mindful movement: it doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective and to spur body-mind synchronization.

  8. One more balancing standing pose for today: tree pose. Let’s root our left foot down firmly and bring our right foot to the inside of that steady leg: the foot can be placed as high as your inner thigh, or below the knee on the shin. Just don’t press on the knee itself. At any time you can touch toes to the floor to regain stability.

    Remember: it’s more about what’s happening in your standing leg than it is about the other leg. And none of these have to be big moves. Our stabilizing muscles are getting a workout no matter what. Once you get yourself steady, physically, set your mind by setting your gaze to one spot. We’ll start with our hands together and then reach them up overhead. With steady gaze, bring your attention to your standing foot, your standing quads, your glutes, your trunk. From this stability we can then become more agile; we can reach up a little higher. It’s OK if you fall out of this pose. Just steady the gaze again, root down your standing foot and leg and try again.

    Don’t play it too safe here. This is the training. Even if you’re shaking, it’s OK. Now release your arms by your side and switch legs. From stability, we become more mobile. From stability, we become more agile in this pose by reaching and expanding—and I mean that both physically and mentally. Play with this pose with these things in mind. Now release foot to floor, arms to your sides.

  9. Now let’s come down to the floor and take rest. Lying on your back, just allow yourself to drop into the floor. Notice your body speak to you through the language of sensation. Notice tingling, coolness and heat, throbbing, pulsing. It’s like a symphony in there that we ignore all day long because we’re caught up in our head. Notice what it feels like to just be here in your body and your breath, in this moment. Notice your body breathing you. Notice your lungs expand and deflate. In your whole body, embrace the inhale and let go on the exhale.

    This mindful movement practice helps us to expand our awareness—not only to what’s happening around us but also what’s happening within us. As we become more versed in the language of our body, we start to be able to sense more about them more often when we’re out there in the world. It’s in this way that we can begin to notice thoughts, emotional patterns, sensations. And tuning like this means we become more capable of acting instead of reacting to whatever might be happening in our lives.

    All of this helps our mind to stabilize and grow steady. It also enables us to become more aware of when we get fixed mentally and how to shift into being more fluid and into a more allowing state of mind.

  10. Pull your knees into your chest and roll over to one side. Then roll up and have a seat. Open your eyes. Carry this clarity with you throughout the day. Carry the stability with you as well. And share it with others, just by being you. Fully you.

Thank yourself for showing up for this practice, and for completing it. I look forward to next week when we’ll focus on joy and feeling uplifted.

Explore Session #3

Mindful Meditation

Open Your Mind and Your Body 

Learn heart-opening movements to strengthen the muscles in your back, expand your breath, and uplift your mind. Read More 

  • Cara Bradley
  • April 2, 2019

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About the author

Cara Bradley

Cara Bradley is a seasoned mind-body expert dedicated to advancing mind-body education through movement, mindfulness and the science of human performance. She provides evidence-based mind-body approaches to global wellness brands, Fortune 100 companies and top-ranked sports teams, is the author of "On The Verge: Wake Up, Show Up, and Shine" and the Founder of Verge Yoga and Meditation Center. Cara was voted a "Top 12 Most Powerful Women in the Mindfulness Movement" by