Blog of the Week: Aging in Balance (good for all ages!)

Originally posted by Eve Bernfeld on March 3, 2014 at www.evebernfeld.com.

Professional Acrobat. Do Not Try This At Home.

There was a short piece in the New York Times recently about balance and how it tends to decline with age.  It gave a brief description of the mechanisms of balance, and a very vague, unsatisfying suggestion at the end that there may be exercises one could do to help prevent the decline.  And it made me want to sing my common refrain: “It ain’t necessarily so!”  (Thanks to the Gershwins.) Yes, there are physiological reasons why balance declines with age.  But, equally, there are “use of the self” reasons, habits of poor coordination that diminish our balance, just as habits of slouching compress our spines.

So what can we do to help prevent this decline?  First and foremost, I must recommend taking a course of Alexander Technique lessons.  Through the lessons, one learns to stop interfering with the natural coordination and relationship of the head, neck and back.  This helps, among other things, the vestibular apparatus (inner ear) do its work more effectively, giving us more accurate information about where we are in space.  Check out this fascinating video from a pilot study by AT teacher Glenna Batson.  A group of elderly adults were given two weeks of intensive Alexander Technique and the resulting improvements in their balance are quite remarkable.

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