Editor’s note: Dana Santas is the creator of Radius Yoga Conditioning, a yoga style designed to help athletes move, breathe and focus better. She’s the yoga trainer for the Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Tampa Bay Lightning, Orlando Magic and dozens of pros in the NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB.
(CNN) — Do you trip over your own feet? Bump into things? Break nails and jam fingers by overreaching?
All human movements — from walking up stairs to catching that pass in the end zone — are driven by communication signals between the brain, central nervous system and our muscles.
There are health issues, like neuropathy (damage to the nervous system), which can inhibit this communication. So, if you’re a chronic klutz, it’s important to see your doctor before assuming your klutziness is just an inherent lack of mind-body connection efficiency.
For the rest of us who are just natural klutzes, practicing the right yoga techniques can curb these clumsy tendencies and improve balance by strengthening the mind-body connection.
Below are some simple postures that establish body awareness without relying on vision. In addition to athletes and others looking to enhance their coordination, I’ve successfully used these training techniques with multiple sclerosis patients and children with autism to help them gain better control of their bodies.
With regular practice, improvements in movement accuracy and sense of body control should be noticeable within a month.
Without a visual perspective, it can be challenging to judge your body’s position, especially for those struggling with klutziness. Training this ability enhances body awareness.
Step your right foot back, keeping your leg straight, heel down and toes out to about 90 degrees. Bend your left knee to align directly over your left ankle. With your upper body aligned above your hips, reach your left arm forward and right arm back at shoulder height. Gazing over your front arm, try to align your back arm horizontally with your forward arm. When you feel it’s perfectly placed, look back.
How’d you do? If you’re off, make the correction and then look forward again. Take a few breaths while focusing on the sensation of alignment.
Repeat on the other side.
Lunge with mock sobriety test
Sobriety tests — like walking a straight line, or bringing an outstretched arm in to touch a finger to your nose — are designed to assess coordination of movements, since alcohol impairs neuromuscular communication. That’s why a mock version of the roadside test can work as a training tool.
Step forward into a lunge pose with arms out wide at shoulder height. For stability and balance, engage your core and buttock muscles of your back leg.
Close your eyes and exhale as you slowly bring your right hand to your nose. Inhale and extend your arm again. Alternate hand-to-nose movements through six rounds of breath. Try to maintain a consistent, level path to your nose. If needed, modify by dropping your back knee and/or keeping your eyes open.
Repeat, lunging on the other side.
Modified tree pose with eyes closed
The ability to engage the right muscles for balance without a visual perspective is a skill that translates to even greater stability when all senses are available.
It’s not easy but improves quickly with practice.
Stand on one foot and place the heel of your opposite foot just above the ankle on the inside of your standing leg, keeping your toes on the ground like a kickstand. Take a mental inventory of the muscles you’re engaging — like your core and quadriceps — to remain stable. Close your eyes and try to maintain your balance while taking three deep breaths.
Initially, you may feel shaky as your brain reacts by firing a variety of muscles in an effort to compensate for the loss of sight. Consciously retake control of firing appropriate muscles for stability.
Repeat twice on each side.
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