Some days tree pose just plain pisses me off. Even trying to put my left foot on my right ankle (let alone my thigh!) feels impossible. This prompted me to ask the question, how can I get better at standing yoga poses when the advice “just keep practicing” doesn’t seem to help? What I found was this:
To get better at standing yoga poses for balance you need to keep your eyes on a focal point, push through the standing leg rather than sink into your hip, spread your toes wide, engage your core more, and if you are struggling, slow down the transition into the pose further.
If the advice “just practice more” isn’t helping, read on for real tips on how to stand tall and strong in your standing balance poses!
Benefits of standing balance yoga postures…
Why should we even care about pulling off tree pose in the first place?
Apparently, for a lot of reasons.
Standing yoga poses have a lot to offer us both physically and mentally.
Balance poses in yoga give us the perfect opportunity to work on strength and concentration, all while reaping the other awesome yoga benefits like a clearer, calmer mind and greater awareness.
Even standing yoga poses for beginners provide us with the foundation that we need to move on to more advanced postures – building our focus can help us to reach those trickier arm balance yoga poses, and maybe even a handstand! My ultimate goal!
Yoga requires us to turn our focus inwards, connecting our body and our mind through practice.
Yoga postures for balance can help to improve our performance in sports, according to a study published in the Journals of Gerontology, prevent falls as we get older and struggle more with balance, as well as strengthen our muscles and joints.
Standing balance yoga poses require a whole lot of concentration and can be a great way to improve our focus both on and off the mat.
These kinds of poses have been found to relieve stress and tension while improving our focus and memory – providing us with useful skills to harness in our everyday lives!
“Twenty-six healthy adults age 20–58…participated in six weeks of either ashtanga yoga or hatha yoga class. Significant improvements at follow-up were noted for all participants in diastolic blood pressure, upper body and trunk dynamic muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, perceived stress, and health perception.Cowen and Adams – Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies
Finding balance in yoga can also help us control our emotions.
When working on challenging poses it can be stressful when we fall downtime and time again, but over time, we start to notice the improvements in our practice and learn to give ourselves grace and take ourselves less seriously.
Interested in training to become a yoga teacher online? Check out our post on online yoga teacher training!
Tips for standing yoga poses…
Whether you’re a yoga newbie or have been practicing for some time, there are plenty of standing yoga poses for balance that are perfect for your level right now.
Whichever balancing yoga pose you are working on at the moment, here are some tips that you can apply to every and all poses that require you to stand on one leg.
- Choose a point to focus on
Choose a spot around 2 meters in front of you that is not moving, and that you can fix your focus on while balancing.
- Ground through the standing leg
When standing on one leg, it’s easy to ‘sink’ into the hip. Push through the standing leg to grow as tall as you can, and use those leg muscles!
- Engage the core
Our core stabilizes us and connects the upper body to the lower body. Keeping the core engages helps us to control the rest of our body, and spend even longer balancing.
- Spread the toes
Try to spread your toes apart as much as you can. This will give you a larger surface area to stand on and help you to control your balance.
- Try again – slowly!
If you fall, try again! But don’t just try to jump back into the pose – start from standing, and move back into your balancing position nice and slowly, taking one step at a time.
How long should I hold each pose?…
The longer you can balance, the greater the benefits!
Start with just 10 seconds.
Double it to 20 seconds, and then see if you can increase your time to a minute or two.
If you struggle to get to 20 seconds, no problem.
Time yourself to see how long you can balance for before you fall, and aim to increase that time the next time that you try.
The point is, the only person you should be comparing yourself to is you-even an increase of a second or two is progress, learn to celebrate that!
Standing yoga poses for beginners…
Below are some great beginner yoga balance poses that are a great place to start.
These balance yoga poses are great no matter your level and even the most advanced practitioners can gain a lot from going back to basics.
Ok, so mountain pose (Tadasana) doesn’t require that we balance on one leg, but it can be great if you’re just getting started with balancing poses and finding that you’re struggling.
Even though this a common yoga pose that seems brainless, in fact, mastering it isn’t a piece of cake and many yogis refer to this as “one of the most complex and challenging poses in yoga asana practice.” – Vagabond Temple
Luckily, however, it is definitely doable.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, your arms out to the sides, and your palms facing forwards.
- Close your eyes and play around with increasing and reducing the amount of weight that you are putting on each foot.
Tree pose (Vrksansana) is one of the most common yoga poses and one of the first standing yoga poses for balance that we try as beginners.
- Start in Mountain Pose, then gently bring all of your weight into the left foot.
- Bring the sole of your right foot onto your inner calf or inner thigh – never the knee! – and bring your hands to a prayer position at your chest.
- If you have knee pain in the standing leg, bring the right toes down to gently touch on the floor, just meeting the heel of the right foot with the ankle of the left foot.
Warrior 3 Pose
- To find warrior 3 pose (Virabhadrasana III), you can start from either mountain pose or tree pose.
- Slowly hinge at the hips to bring your torso towards the floor, leading with your chest, as you bring your right leg up and straight out behind you.
- Keep the hands at the heart or draw them along your sides.
If you feel that your core is strong enough, you can also reach your hands out in front of you, like the photo above.
Be aware, this will add a whole new level of balancing to Warrior III!
Holding eagle pose (Garudasana) always makes me feel empowered, and let’s be real, it also looks cool.
It’s also one of the best yoga poses for balance and strength.
- Start from mountain pose, and bring your right knee over your left as you ‘sit’ backward – almost as though you’re crossing your legs and sitting on an invisible chair.
- From here you can tuck your right foot behind your left calf, or just keep it connected to the side of your left leg.
- Bring your arms out in front of you, and cross the left elbow over the right elbow.
- Bend at the elbows to bring the backs of the hands to touch, or wrap your forearms around each other until your palms meet.
- Keep your elbows in line with your shoulders, and forearms parallel to your face.
Lord of the Dance Pose
I feel that lord of the dance (Natarajasana) is one of the most beautiful standing yoga poses for balance as it has gorgeous lines and can look incredibly graceful.
Maybe not for me, yet, but everyone has to start somewhere!
- Start from Mountain Pose, then bend the right knee as though you’re trying to touch your buttocks with your heel.
- Reach behind you with your right hand and hold onto your right foot.
- From here, kick your foot into your hand as you lean your torso slightly forwards, reaching the left arm straight out in front of you.
Intermediate yoga balance postures…
These intermediate standing yoga poses for balance require a little more flexibility, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t give them a try as a beginner!
Half Moon Pose
Half moon pose (Ardha Chandrasana), builds strength, balance, and gives you a good stretch at the same time!
- From warrior III pose (standing on the left leg), reach your left hand down to the floor or a block.
- Turn your torso open to the left as you reach your right hand up towards the sky, and look to the floor, or up towards the ceiling.
Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose
Extended hand to big toe pose (Utthita Hasta Padangustasana) also offers a terrific stretch along with a challenge to your balance.
- From Tree Pose (standing on the left foot), take the right foot with the right hand and reach the right foot out to the side.
- Try to keep the right knee as straight as possible, but release the stretch a little if this causes you any pain behind the knee or at the very top of the hamstring muscles (towards the glute).
Standing splits (Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana) can be taken from intermediate all of the way very challenging depending on how close you can put your hands to your foot on the floor, and how high you can lift your other leg.
- From standing, hinge at the hips as you reach your hands towards the ground or a block.
- At the same time, lift your right leg behind you, keeping your hips square with the ground.
Props that can help…
When you first start to practice balancing poses, or when you start to move into new poses that you’re yet to master, there are a variety of props that can help you.
Use a wall or a chair next to or in front of you that you can use for balance, there’s no shame in it!
Using a prop can assist you in standing yoga poses for balance and prevent you from getting frustrated at falling all the time.
They’re also recommended for safety if you’re practicing with injuries or if you are pregnant.
When practicing standing yoga poses that require you to reach your hands to the floor, blocks can help to bring the floor a little closer to you and assist with balance.
Blocks are also helpful to use if you suffer from wrist pain!
Anytime you feel like the floor needs to be closer to you, the yoga block comes to the rescue!
There are numerous ways that yoga blocks can come in handy for vinyasa yoga beginners, so definitely have one of two ready during your practice.
Yoga straps can be used to come into standing balance poses that you may struggle with otherwise.
Want to try Lord of the Dance pose but can’t grab your foot?
You guessed it, yoga strap!
Videos on standing yoga postures for balance…
If you want to improve your balance and strength, try a yoga video aimed at just that!
Below I have included a short, medium, and long video focused on standing yoga balance postures.
Get to it!
Cole Chance Yoga offers this short flow focused on getting you some serious balance!
YouTube yoga is free and has some quality classes, but if you find yourself wasting too much time searching for a decent class, take your practice up a notch!
Find class and programs teaching every kind of yoga you can think of, with several classes focused on yoga postures for balance taught by world-class yoga instructors at YogaDownload, including the Mastering Balance class by Shy Sayar!
According to his bio, Shy Sayar:
“is a senior yoga therapist and a registered yoga teacher & continuing education provider at the highest level offered by Yoga Alliance. Well into his third decade with yoga, Shy has tens of thousands of hours of experience bringing yoga to students of all levels, treating patients, and training yoga teachers and therapists around the globe.”
Why not learn from some of the best yoga educators around, especially when they offer super affordable subscription packages, saving you time AND money.
Standing yoga postures for balance can help us to advance both physically and mentally in our practice – and outside of our practice!
They help us to develop more awareness of our bodies, better focus, and will leave us feeling on top of the world when we finally manage to balance in half moon pose for more than 3 seconds.
If you’re new to balance yoga poses, work your way through the list of beginner yoga balance poses before moving on to the slightly more difficult intermediate standing poses.
And most importantly – have fun!
Thanks for reading and take care!
FIND MORE YOGA EXPERIENCES
Anne Tiedemann, Sandra O’Rourke, Romina Sesto, Catherine Sherrington, A 12-Week Iyengar Yoga Program Improved Balance and Mobility in Older Community-Dwelling People: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial, The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Volume 68, Issue 9, September 2013, Pages 1068–1075, https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glt087
Cowen, V. S., & Adams, T. B. (2005). Physical and perceptual benefits of yoga asana practice: Results of a pilot study. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 9(3), 211-219. doi:10.1016/j.jbmt.2004.08.001