Fancy balance exercises aren’t required; something as simple as balancing on one foot with your hands out in front of you can work. But if you’re looking for a way to step it up and improve your balance while building core stability and overall muscle strength, check out our five-minute balance routine below.
This routine can be done barefoot on a yoga mat. Performing exercises barefoot helps enhance your proprioception, or your awareness of your body in space. Plus, because you can’t rely on shoes for support, you’ll be forced to engage the stabilizing tendons and ligaments in your ankles, knees and hips to maintain balance.
Each dynamic exercise (meaning one that requires you to move through the exercise) should be performed slowly. And each static exercise (one that requires you to hold a certain position) should be held while breathing slowly. Through dynamic and static exercises, your body and mind will work together to create more balance both inside your mind and outside for your body.
For all of the following exercises, be sure to pick a focal point to look at that’s a few feet in front of you on the floor. Or, you can choose a spot on the wall in front of you to focus on.
Side lunge to center balance
Standing on your yoga mat with your feet as wide as your hips, step the right foot to the right. Bend the right knee and reach the right glute behind you as if you are sitting on a chair. Keep the left leg straight. Pull the naval in toward the spine.
Then slowly push off of your right foot to come back to center. Without putting your foot on the ground, bring the right knee toward your chest and balance.
Then step the right foot out to the right into a side lunge again and repeat.
Repeat 10 times to the right, and then switch to perform 10 times to the left.
Arm and leg extension
Come down to your mat onto your hands and knees. Line up your wrists so that they’re parallel to the center of the mat and directly beneath your shoulders. Line up your knees underneath your hips and open them as wide as your hips.
Pull your naval in toward the spine and reach the right arm forward. Relax the shoulder as you reach the arm and fingertips forward.
Extend your left leg behind you and flex the left foot, keeping the left leg straight. Balance on your right knee and your left hand for one second, then place the right hand and left knee down onto the ground into the starting position.
Repeat 10 times like this, and then switch to extend the right leg and the left arm to do 10 repetitions.
Stand up with your feet as wide as your hips. Then shift your balance onto your left foot while lifting up your right foot off of the ground. Grab your right ankle with your right hand to place the right foot to the left inner thigh. Press the inner thigh into the foot to help with balance. Pull your abs in and press your hands together in a prayer position at the center of your chest.
If this is too challenging, you can lower your right foot down so that it’s resting on your inner left shin or balance the right toes onto the ground for more help.
Hold for five deep breaths. If you wobble or fall out of this pose, just refocus and come back into the pose.
Then switch sides to hold for five breaths on the other side.
Extended hand to big toe pose
This exercise requires flexibility in the hamstring, groin and shoulders, so work up to the full expression of this pose. To start, stand with your feet as wide as your hips.
Then draw your right knee into your chest with both hands. Hold onto your right knee with just your right hand as you open the knee to the right. Hold here for three breaths, or proceed onward if flexibility allows.
Reach for your right big toe with your first three fingers and grab onto it.
Extend the right leg and right arm straight out to the right and relax the right shoulder. Press down firmly through the left foot for balance.
Hold for three deep breaths. This pose is more challenging, so concentrate on one deep breath, then two, then three. Then switch sides.
Extended side plank
Holding plank on its own is a serious balance challenge! But if you’re looking for a way to step it up, balance on your outer left foot as you lift your right hand off of the ground and onto your right hip (see photo at top). Stack your right foot on top of your left foot.
Pull your naval in toward your spine and lift your hips up away from the floor and extend your right leg straight up. Then, extend the right arm straight up from the shoulder, grab your right big toe and hold.
Hold this for three breaths per side.
Stephanie Mansour, host of “Step It Up With Steph” on PBS, is a health and wellness journalist and a consultant and weight loss coach for women.