Although balance balls were originally intended for use in hospitals and rehabilitation centers, fitness experts quickly got wind of the balls' value in enhancing other types of physical activities. The secret of the ball is that sitting upon it immediately and naturally engages all of your core muscles, causing you to sit up straight and tall or topple off. Many Pilates exercises and yoga poses that are traditionally performed on a mat can be adapted to a balance ball, giving your normal workout a bit of spice while also engaging a few forgotten muscles. Speak with your doctor to find the right balance ball training program for you.
Benefits of the Ball
Through time and repetition, it's almost inevitable that a yoga or Pilates routine becomes stale. Balance balls add a new twist to an old routine that can do wonders for motivation. Since both Pilates and yoga provide a natural focus on the body's core muscles, balance balls are an obvious fit as a workout enhancer. While performing sitting postures or exercises, the ball ensures those core muscles are engaged whether you like it or not. During lying poses, the ball can provide extra leverage to enhance poses, it can intensify stretches or it can be a prop to ensure proper body alignment and safety.
Choose the right sized ball for your height, making sure that your legs form a 90-degree angle when you sit on it. During your workout, wear form-fitting clothing that moves with your body. Ensure you have a big enough space to perform all of your exercises or postures safely. When performing Pilates exercises or yoga poses on a ball, always check for proper alignment, keeping your head in line with your spine and your shoulders and hips in line as you would when exercising on a mat. Always stop if a movement feels forced or painful.
Pilates With a Ball
You can use a balance ball to make some Pilates exercises more challenging, or you can use it as a prop to allow your muscles to gain strength before adding more difficulty. Balancing a ball on your legs during the Hundred will take it up a notch, requiring you to tighten up and stay steady so the ball won't fall off. Take the difficulty level down a notch by resting the backs of your thighs on the ball as you engage your core and breathe your way to a hundred. Employ a ball during the Shoulder Bridge by placing one or both feet on the ball instead of the floor as you tip your pelvis up and off the mat. Challenge yourself further by extending both legs until they are straight before you lift.
Yoga With a Ball
It's a little more difficult to imagine performing your yoga routine on a balance ball, but it can be achieved. Use the ball in sitting postures to maintain a straight spine and engaged core. Other poses can be enhance by a balance ball by providing extra support when necessary. Use a ball during Plank pose to support your hips and keep your spine straight. Place it under your thigh to support you in forward lunges or Warrior postures. Roll the ball forward as you fold into Child's pose. A ball can enhance the fluidity of your routine while keeping your spine tall and straight.
Dana Tuffelmire has been writing for DMS for three years. She taught elementary school for seven years and earned a master’s of education degree with a specialization in literacy. She is currently a stay-at-home mom to two sons. Her dream is to one day write a children's book.