It's a new ball game

It's a new ball game

It's a new ball game

Yoga is not only fun with exercise balls, but also beneficial in improving your posture, balance, reaction speed and core strength, explains Raj Reddy.

The exercise ball has become a common sight in most fitness clubs around the world, courtesy the many benefits it has to offer. The seemingly simple ball helps improve your posture, balance, reaction speed and core strength, all at once. This is because it provides a challenging environment without exerting the trainee too much.

It is no surprise then that even yoga has taken to the use of exercise balls these days. Yoga with the use of exercise balls is fun. Moreover, it is achievable for most people, as it can be easily adapted to suit all levels of abilities. Certain asanas are rather challenging; the use of exercise balls in such cases can be of great help. Yoga with exercise ball is a workout that fundamentally uses the ball to provide support, increase flexibility and improve endurance while holding an asana.

Of course, a beginner, who has just started training in the basic asanas, might find it way out of his/her league to use exercise balls while performing yoga. However, after a certain level of comfort and flexibility with yoga training, the use of an exercise ball can add challenges, where required, and remove challenges when the trainee finds trouble holding a certain asana. However, before considering this kind of workout, it is prudent to check with a doctor if the regime is suitable for you, especially if you have a history of any injury, illness or condition.

Why use the ball?

Using the ball while performing asanas is known to improve your posture. You see, an exercise ball stimulates all those essential muscles constantly to maintain your centre of gravity, so that you don't fall off the ball.

It strengthens your core. The extremes of your body - arms and legs, too, will work with the rest of your body to maintain the posture while using the ball because it forces your body to keep the posture right in all dimensions.

Most machines, the type used in gyms, are anchored to the floor. In other words, they do not require you to use all your muscles adequately, thereby reducing your body’s ability for movement. Yoga ball training, on the other hand, like most other natural exercises, requires you to use all your core muscles, thereby improving your body balance, co-ordination and stability.

Yoga ball training is known to improve your nervous system because it requires you to react to the changing base of support from the ball. This increases your reactivity to movements, postures and balance.

It can even help in effective rehabilitation. Because the exercises ball is naturally unstable, sitting, exercising or balancing on it activates the motor nervous system, thereby increasing muscle function and awareness. This has shown great results, even when used for recuperating from an injury.

Choosing the right ball

Exercise balls generally come in five different diametrical sizes. Each of these sizes is accordingly used for people of differing body compositions.

It is important to note that height is not the only factor in determining the suitable ball size.

Because the exercise balls are flexible and offer resistance, weight is also an
important factor.

You may want to use a smaller ball for certain asanas.

Sitting upright on the ball

The very act of sitting on an exercise ballrequires the core muscles to actively hold the body upright and balanced on the ball. Until sitting on the exercise ball feels comfortable, it is often a good idea to not have the ball fully inflated; a slightly deflated exercise ball is more stable.

Keep your feet flat on the floor, with an even weight distribution. Keep your knees slightly apart.

Keep your knees in level with or slightly lower than the pelvis. Keep your thighs parallel to the ground. It should create a 90 degree angle with your pelvis.

Keep your torso upright. Your pelvis, shoulders and ears should all be aligned vertically.

Do not let your neck lean forward. Bounce up and down lightly; it will help get this alignment right.

Important tips

As with any other type of exercise, it is important to warm-up before engaging in yoga ball training.

It is advisable to have an instructor for the training at all points of time, for it is extremely crucial to get the postures right. Else, it may result in injury.

It is important to make sure you are breathing properly throughout the

Take your time with the moves and use extra support when needed.

The writer is the founder and director of Adiyoga - Path To Peace