8 Yoga Poses That Improve Balance

By Brittany Risher |

Build stability, endurance, and confidence at once with this do-anywhere sequence.

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Balance training is an obvious yet often overlooked tool to help prevent falls and subsequent injuries or loss of function. And it’s incredibly accessible: You don’t need much time or any equipment to do it. You just need the eight yoga poses below from Terecita “Ti” Blair, the 2017 SilverSneakers Instructor of the Year.

“Balance training can help build muscular endurance, increase flexibility, and, of course, improve balance,” Blair says. “It helps build confidence and quicken reaction time, as well as offers an opportunity to practice mindfulness and body awareness. You learn to breathe through something difficult or challenging, maintaining balance even when your world turns upside down.”

You’ll find that your balance differs day to day and even minute to minute, so for best results, do these poses every day. Start with a five-minute warmup such as marching in place or walking, and then perform the poses in order. You can also do them individually, but it’s still a good idea to warm up first.

As always, safety is key. If you have a chronic condition (including osteoporosis) or injuries, or have been feeling dizzy or faint, check with your doctor before doing any balance training. “We want to make sure there are no underlying causes that might be contributing to this sensation,” Blair says. “Start with the support of a chair, wall, or solid surface until you gain confidence and feel comfortable adding challenge.”

Finally, learn to smile as you wobble—as with any type of exercise, you’ll improve with continued practice. If you’re a beginner, be sure to check out the tips to make each move easier. And if you’re up for a real challenge, try the dynamic, moving variation of a pose or two.

1. Balancing Mountain

The pose stretches and strengthens the arches of your feet, ankles, and legs, giving you a strong foundation.

How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart and parallel, letting your arms relax at your sides with palms facing forward. Roll your shoulders up, back, and down. Engage the low belly as you lift your chest.

Maintaining this position, push into the floor with your toes, and lift both heels as high as possible. Find a focal point to help you balance, and breathe here for three to five breaths.

Make it easier: Don’t lift your heels as high, or hold onto the back of a chair or wall for support.

Make it harder: Lift your arms up toward the ceiling as you lift your heels.

Dynamic Balancing Mountain: Inhale to lift your heels. Exhale to lower back down. That’s one rep. Do three to five reps, matching movement with breath.

2. Knee to Chest

This pose helps strengthen your legs, hips, and core as you find stability.

How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart and parallel, hands on the hips. Roll your shoulders up, back, and down. Engage the low belly as you lift your chest. This is mountain pose, the starting position for this pose and the others that follow.

Lift your left knee to hip height so your upper leg is parallel with the floor. Flex your left foot, and balance on your right leg, keeping your hands on your hips. Find a focal point to help you balance, and breathe here for three to five breaths. Repeat on the opposite side.

Make it easier: Do seated knee to chest. Sit up tall with both feet on the floor, hands on hips. Inhale to lift your foot.

Make it harder: Draw your knee closer to your chest, using your hands and arms to gently pull it up.

Dynamic Knee to Chest: Inhale to lift your knee. Exhale to lower back down. That’s one rep. Do three to five reps per side, matching movement with breath.

3. Warrior 3 Variation

This pose strengthens your legs, butt, and back.

How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart and parallel, hands on the hips. Roll your shoulders up, back, and down. Engage the low belly as you lift your chest.

Lift your left foot behind you, and then slowly tip your torso forward, allowing your left leg to extend as you do. Go as far as you comfortably can, and gradually work toward making your back leg and torso parallel with the floor, forming a line from your head to your left heel. Keep your left foot flexed, toes pointing to the floor. Find a focal point to help you balance, and breathe here for three to five breaths. Repeat on the opposite side.

Make it easier: Place a hand on the back of a chair or wall to help balance, or keep your back toes on the floor.

Make it harder: Lengthen your arms in front of you, or bring your hands together at your chest.

Dynamic Warrior 3 Variation: Inhale as you lift your leg and tip forward. Exhale as you return back to standing. That’s one rep. Do three to five reps per side, matching movement with breath.

4. Tree Pose

Work your leg, hip, and core stability as you stand strong like a tree in the wind.

How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart and parallel, hands on the hips. Roll your shoulders up, back, and down. Engage the low belly as you lift your chest.

Shift your weight into your left foot, and allow your right knee to turn out to the side as you bring your right foot in to rest at your left ankle, but without putting pressure on the ankle joint itself. As you progress, take your arms into a position that is comfortable but challenging, such as with hands together at your chest or lifted overhead. Find a focal point to help you balance, and breathe here for three to five breaths. Repeat on the opposite side.

Make it easier: Place your lifted foot a few inches away from your standing foot for a wider base.

Make it harder: Lift your foot higher to the calf or inner thigh of your standing leg, but avoid putting your foot on your knee joint. Need even more of a challenge? Close one eye, or lift your gaze up toward the ceiling.

Dynamic Tree Pose: Inhale to lift your heel and turn out your knee. Exhale back to mountain pose. That’s one rep. Do three to five reps per side, matching movement with breath.

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5. Balancing Star

Make like a standing star to strengthen your legs, butt, and core.

How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart and parallel, hands on the hips. Roll your shoulders up, back, and down. Engage the low belly as you lift your chest.

Step your right leg out wide to the side, placing only your toes on the floor for balance to start. Now, flex your right foot as you lift your leg out to the side, allowing your upper body to tilt slightly to the left. Open your arms wide with palms facing forward to make a star shape with your body. Find a focal point to help you balance, and breathe here for three to five breaths. Repeat on the opposite side.

Make it easier: Hold the back of a chair or keep your toes on the floor for balance.

Make it harder: Look up toward your hand on the same side as your lifted leg.

Dynamic Balancing Star: Inhale to lift your leg and open your arms. Exhale back to mountain pose. That’s one rep. Do three to five reps per side, matching movement with breath.

6. Standing Pigeon

A great way to open your hips, this pose also strengthens your entire lower body.

How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart and parallel, hands on the hips. Roll your shoulders up, back, and down. Engage the low belly as you lift your chest.

Lift your left leg, and cross your left foot over your right knee. Keeping your left foot flexed, sit back into a single-leg chair position. Lower only as much as you comfortably can—every little bit counts. Find a focal point to help you balance, and breathe here for three to five breaths. Repeat on the opposite side.

Make it easier: Practice this while seated in a chair, keeping the standing foot rooted on the floor and the top foot flexed.

Make it harder: Sit lower into your single-leg chair, or bring your hands together at your chest.

Dynamic Standing Pigeon: Inhale into standing pigeon. Exhale to lift your leg and return to mountain pose. That’s one rep. Do three to five reps per side, matching movement with breath.

7. Dancer Pose

This pose strengthens your lower body, upper back, and core, while also stretching your hip flexors.

How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart and parallel, hands on the hips. Roll your shoulders up, back, and down. Engage the low belly as you lift your chest.

Bend your right knee so that your flexed foot lifts behind you. Keep your right hand on your hip, and lift your left arm up until your upper arm is in line with your cheek. Find a focal point to help you balance, and breathe here for three to five breaths. Repeat on the opposite side.

Make it easier: Hold the back of a chair or a wall with your lower hand.

Make it harder: Start to tip your torso forward, keeping your spine long and belly engaged.

Dynamic Dancer Pose: Inhale as you bend your knee and lift your arm. Exhale back to mountain pose. That’s one rep. Do three to five reps per side, matching movement with breath.

8. Standing Twist

This pose increases flexibility in your spine while strengthening your spinal stabilizers, hips, and lower body.

How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart and parallel, hands on the hips. Roll your shoulders up, back, and down. Engage the low belly as you lift your chest.

Lift your left knee to hip height so your upper leg is parallel with the floor. Flex your left foot, and balance on your right leg. Reach both arms straight out in front of you, palms facing each other.

Gently start to twist toward the left. Place your right hand onto your raised left knee, and allow your left arm to open out, deepening your twist. Find a focal point to help you balance, and breathe here for three to five breaths. Repeat on the opposite side.

Make it easier: Keep the arm that’s on the same side as your lifted leg facing forward, instead of opening out, for more stability.

Make it harder: Close one eye after you twist.

Dynamic Standing Twist: Inhale to lift your knee and arms forward. Exhale to twist. Inhale to return to facing forward with your leg lifted. Exhale back to mountain pose. That’s one rep. Do three to five reps per side, matching movement with breath.

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