Balanced Yoga, Or Is It Balance Yoga?

By | June 22, 2011

In the end, it's all about balance.

It’s funny how sometimes life is a series of coincidences. Yesterday, before yoga class I was speaking to our teacher, Susan Quon about the process of adding new yoga classes to our schedule. I was concerned that as we added more classes and instructors, that there be a standardized and balanced curriculum so that students, with back pain for instance, attending our various classes or switching between them would have dependable and more or less consistent experience. Then at the end of class a student came up to me with an interesting request.

We were near the end of class and we were doing an asymmetrical back hip and shoulder stretch. I had noticed that this particular student was not able to do the stretch. This patient is a remarkable individual who had been a head OR nurse at the Mayo Clinic and a determined and excellent student. I had assumed that her problem was due to tightness in the back or hip muscles. She informed me that for quite some time now she had been having problems with her balance and was unable to pick one foot up off the floor for that long a time and then asked if there was anything that I could do about it.

As a quick digression, it is well known that many of the same processes that produce pain in our patients (pain itself and neuropathy for instance) also attack their balance. We have sent some patients to physical therapy for balance and gait training with mixed results. These programs are usually aimed at stroke patients who have rather gross impairment of vestibular function along with hemiparesis that most of my patients do not have.

Back to our wonderful, but wobbly woman. I told her that there were branches of yoga therapy that dealt with improving balance and that I would speak to Susan and introduce some of those movements and techniques next Tuesday. It is amazing how the world often comes full circle. Yoga as life is fundamentally about balance. At the beginning of the evening I was struggling with the problems of a balanced content in our yoga classes. During class we worked on producing balanced flexibility and tone in different muscle groups. At the end of class this student and I discussed yoga techniques to improve postural balance and as I was driving from the class in Burbank to Tarzana Hospital to see my last patient of the day I began to think about the problem of lives out of balance and restoring balance to my own life.

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