Given our inclination NOT to ... move in slow, deliberate ways ...to walk rather than drive ... to wean ourselves from drugs that interfere with our motor capacity ... or to do a daily personal yoga practice... I have to wonder whether we're collectively losing our chops as successful bipeds. Instead of legs, we'll have long slender fins to push the car pedals.
Modern life is making us lose our balance. According to author Scott McCredie, America is facing a near-epidemic in debilitating falls. I took a look at McCredie's newish book (new to me), Balance: recovering the lost sense. It's a collection of essays on the evolution evolution of balance, and contemporary masters of this sixth sense (see the Amazon page).
Poor balance is common among students who come to the studio, so I treat it seriously. Just one fall can lead to death within months for the very old. But more often than not the falls begin in late youth and middle age. The effects are cumulative, and they can make life very unpleasant through head injuries, torn ligaments, plates to hold together broken bones ... every serious injury increases the odds for future impairment (meaning less walking, balancing activity: the cycle that leads to the next fall is strengthened).
When students tell me they're having dizzy spells, or have fallen, I'm moved by their vulnerable, self-incriminating sadness. The guilt is strikingly common. And sometimes it results in the blame of others, "unsafe" surfaces, weather conditions etc.
Maybe a fall is one of the few times we can actually see a consequence from our inattantion, pretty much as the lapse occurs.
Balanced movement is much harder when we're in a state of obsession, preoccupation, or anxiety, such as overreacting to an overreactive media.
Yoga helps balance of course. But it takes a kind of inner equilibrium to do an appropriate daily practice, which is what's required for any real progress. When your balance is out of whack, that commitment comes hard, especially if you lack a close relationship with a teacher. So, balance deficits resist a "quick fix". The sense remains an elusive combination of so many skills and faculties (vision, attention, proprioception, and the vestibular functions of the inner ear, and can be affected by so many other factors, illness, hormonal changes etc). So we need to practice, practice, practice.
Losing our balance may mean losing a lot more than firm feet on the ground. From the mind-body perspective, it's associated with changes in thinking and judgment. Biped alignment is one of the signal, evolutionary leaps that distinguish human consciousness. Placing the spine upright at a right angle to the ground, has had extraordinary consequences. In this position, humans can more easily meditate and enjoy the "relaxed alertness" that leads to profound concentration, insight, and bliss.