The Trouble with Balance

Laban Movement Analysis: The Trouble with Balance

Some people believe in synchronicity, others believe in pure coincidence.  I am not sure what I believe but either way, I have been presented with a re-occuring theme in my life.  It appeared again this morning when my 3 year old son started talking about his ‘wobbly’ bike, the actual name being a balance bike.  And there it was…


A few days ago in yoga, I was having an extremely difficult time with the balance postures. Tree pose may have well been called Falling Tree.  Despite the importance of not judging in yoga, or the emphasis placed on accepting where I am, I began to search for reasons that I couldn’t balance. The running commentary in my head sounded something like this:  “Maybe it’s the rug, yup, my mat isn’t flat, I did have a baby a year ago, maybe my pelvis has shifted,  my focus, it’s in the eyes, steady the eyes, nope, I am just plain out of shape, How can a dancer not do a simple tree pose?” 

On and on it went. The reality is that my life is out of balance.  I have never been a great example of someone that lives a balanced life. I am either always working too hard, or not at all; dancing too much or not enough, playing with my kids or not engaging with them due to ‘work’.  And, as usual, this has ALWAYS presented itself in my physical self as well.  Balance has never been my favorite thing, even in my early ballet years. I couldn’t wait to get through adagio!  But, in an attempt to change this….or to perhaps acknowledge this…I thought I would remind myself of elements of the LMA system  that could support my journey towards balance in my life. It starts in my body.

When I think about the aspects of the system that are helpful for me in finding balance, I think about the overall theme of Inner and Outer.  I need to be conscious of both inner stability and grounding while being able to connect to the outer points in space.  For me, the inner workings of balance have an emphasis on grounding and stability.  Being aware of my kinetic chains and muscle support that can aid in finding this is important.  Investing in the connections from the feet through to head and back to feet as well as focusing on the heel to sitz-bone connection is invaluable.  And of course, thinking of my Core-Distal Connectivity (how my core works in relation to my distal edges, including my head and my tail) is vital.

When I really take the time to work into my balance it begins with my feet, from the ground up.  I focus on the yield and push into the ground with equal weight on all parts of my feet.  I like to think of the four outer points of my feet yielding and pushing down through the floor into another, deeper, imaginary surface.  Many of us have a tendency to roll in our out with our feet (pronate or supinate) so an added check of my personal supination is always a bonus.  From there, the energy climbs like a light getting brighter and brighter up my body towards my head.  The heels ground, sending energy up and into my sitz bones, the first 2 toes send strength through the insides of my legs towards my core, further activating stability.  As a result the upper area of my body can float up towards the sky.  (It feels important to mention that this yielding and pushing into the floor can be done in an inversion as well, substituting the hands for the feet!).

As I become more grounded physically, I can begin to go inside myself inspiring effort and dynamic to support my movement, finding a Stable State.  The title is self-explanatory, but to get more specific:  Effort States in LMA combine 2 different Elements of the Effort Category (Space, Weight, Time, and Flow).  Stable State is a combination of Space (Direct or Indirect) and Weight (Light or Strong).  To me, Stable State becomes useful in finding my balance when I use my Strong Weight Effort (Strong Sense of Self) and my Direct Space Effort (Focused Attention to Space).  This allows me to bring myself to the present moment and inhabit the space I am in; the yoga studio, my family home, my community, the world. Used in this way, Stable State is a perfect example of the Inner/Outer theme.  Yoga often helps me invest in my Stable State at times when I am the most frenetic.  But I must remember that Stable State may be able to help me with my balance in Yoga, life and beyond.

If none of the above mentioned works in my struggle to achieve balance, I begin to realize that it isn’t all about me. It is also about existing in the world.  This is where thinking about the Space Category in LMA really helps me.  Knowing the plethora of points in space increase my possibilities when directing my energy and movement to certain directions.  Often just knowing and emphasizing the Dimensions and Planes is extremely helpful.   But, by far, the most useful theory in the Space category when thinking about balance is the idea of a Countertension, two equal spatial pulls moving in the exact opposite direction.  I like to imagine that I have little lights shining from my body and extending to infinity in the direction of the spatial pull.  In my mind, these infinite beams of light serve as a tether to help me balance, almost as if I am merely a marionette controlled by Space.

Finally, I need to remember that balance is not static.  This, I believe is the real problem. In dance, I was always taught to ‘holdit’ or ‘stay there’ as a young one learning to balance.  But balance isn’t still, it is always moving and evolving.  My body is always moving, breathing, blood flowing, heart beating, cells working.  So, why wouldn’t my balance be better viewed as an ongoing negotiation of myself in space?

So what is the point of all of this?

Why do I write about my personal struggles?  Because the bigger picture applies to all of us.  Balance in LIFE (not just physical life) is never static.  It is ongoing and constantly changing.  I am a negotiation of my physical being in space, but MY LIFE is a negotiation of priorities, responsibilities, and relationships.  And I think we can all understand that.  So, the next time any of us are in yoga or other physical practices that require balance perhaps it is most wise to remember that our life manifests itself physically.  Working to find balance in ALL aspects of life is most likely the best solution.