On one foot

My ability to keep balance declines with age, so I try to maintain and even improve it through exercise. As I start my day in the morning, I practice postures and stretch my body. A part of my routine is exercising while standing on one foot, alternating between left and right. When I stand on one foot, my brain constantly sends correction signals to my muscles so that I remain stable. When bringing attention to my diaphragm and stomach muscles, I can observe their contribution to keeping me balanced.

Before sending muscle activation signals to restore balance, my brain factors in three primary input sources:

  • Visual input
  • Balance-related information from fluids in my ears
  • Touch sensation on my feet

Fixing my eyes on one static point and avoiding other sensual distractions makes it easier to keep balance. For example, I lose balance more easily when I practice on the beach while watching the waves, or in a park where I’m looking at swaying trees, or in a room with dim light where it’s more challenging to focus on a definite point.

The last on the list of exercises I do when practicing on one foot is probably the most effective. It’s simply standing on one foot with my eyes closed and trying to keep my balance. When my eyes are closed, I have no visual input, leaving my brain with only two primary input sources: the ear fluids and sensations from one foot. Eliminating visual input makes it more challenging for me to maintain my balance.

Through the years, I have noticed that breathing affects my ability to keep balance when standing on one foot. More often than not, it’s on the inhale that I lose my balance. During the exhale, I feel more stable. Therefore, when transitioning between postures while standing on one foot, I do it during the exhale.

Another interesting observation is that I maintain a better balance when I smile. Since I’m less stable when inhaling, I try to use smiling as an offsetting measure to improve my stability. Smiling contributes to balance when standing on one foot, but more than that, it can help balance long life journeys.