Improve Your Balance, Walk This Way

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Do you ever wonder how you could improve your balance? It is possible without a trainer, bosu ball or complex regimen. The secret is to walk in a swimming pool. Public and private pools are often 3 ½ to 4 feet deep, allowing most people to readily walk without support or get their hair wet. I have primarily used Pullen Aquatic Center’s therapy lane for several years to relieve pain from arthritis, restore strength in my weakened leg from paralysis, and regain balance in my stride.

What is so special about a pool? They are inexpensive to use, especially as a city resident or when already part of a membership. Fitness and specialty classes are often available. Almost everyone in attendance has an interest in wellness and fun. Private facilities are often quieter than a gym.

How does a pool help your balance? Water allows parts of your body to float. This is buoyancy, with the resulting effect of carrying less body weight. Your body will experience less pressure in many areas: joints, muscles, discs, etc. You can move with more freedom and less compensation. Also, the waves that are generated by your and anybody else’s movement provide a variable, disruptive force that tests your reflexes.

Consider moving slowly in a straight line with minimal arm movement. Step over the foot in a heel, ball, and toe manner. Firmly engage each segment to the ground. Develop a long stride that is even in length for both legs. Look forward and breathe evenly. Note differences for now, no need for adjustments yet. Add arm and leg movement. For example, draw the left elbow back as you are pressing on the right toe. Switch pairs for each step. Play with this for a while.

The counter move for this is to walk backwards. This may feel awkward at first. With practice, you may move as fluidly as when you move forward. Keep a posture that is upright with slow toe, ball, and heel strides. Hold a wall as needed.

You can shift to gentle forward lunges. Keep the front and back legs hip width apart. Separate them from front to back with enough room to allow you to comfortably kneel forward. Make sure your front knee stays over the ankle. Think 90° or right angle for the knee. You can take steps and alternate sides or gently practice a static pose. Head stays up, breathe and smile.

Grapevine is more challenging. This involves moving sideways and crossing one foot over the other. The trailing foot alternately moves in front of or behind the leading foot. When you reach the far wall, just reverse direction and therefore sides, too.

The finale could be the high step (raised knee). Or not so high step. Maybe just a knee lift? Regardless, the arms are lifted upward on the side of the “lifted” knee. You then alternate steps and knee lifts. Walk forward slowly and notice differences from side to side. No rush to adjust. Enjoy the promenade.

Friends have cited feeling taller after a pool session. Feel free to splash me a note with your observations (fish stories), comments, and questions: Howie@youcallthisyoga.org