Author: Miha Škof, slackliner and a balance te
With balance training we improve the feeling of our body in space and time, or proprioception, body stabilization, muscle and brain responsiveness, concentration, fluidity. If we dig a little deeper, we can train also intuition and some other skills that are really versatile and we never come to an end.
Balance can be thought of as a purely physical property. An observed object is in equilibrium when the sum of all forces and moments acting on it is zero. The concept is relatively understandable, but a little more difficult to achieve when it comes to dynamic balance. This is typical of more realistic, not static, problems. With the help of stabilizing the body and feeling for the centre of gravity, we can quickly manage to maintain such dynamic balance.
If we want to improve the balance, we will have to recognize deviations and errors faster, so that we can start correcting them earlier. Perfect balance, be it on a slackline, balance ball or in life in general, is impossible to maintain all the time. There are always little distractions that tip us to one side or the other. Therefore, we must always strive for an ideal balance position. The closer we are to the ideal position and the longer time, the better balance we have, at least for outside observers.
When searching for balance, a beginner moves his centre of gravity significantly and usually goes from one extreme to the other (red line).
Someone who has already mastered the necessary stabilization of the body, and is quickly aware of when he is moving away from the balance position, will be able to stay in good dynamic balance (yellow line) with quick corrections. Even so, he will still be quite tense and rational.
However, the physical concept alone is not the only concept of balance! The last level of balance happens exclusively in the practitioner’s head.
In my opinion, the most difficult part of the path to better balance (green line) is the ability to calmly persist in a difficult position / situation out of balance or comfort zone. This applies everywhere, not just on a slackline. When we develop a good enough focus and composure that we are not constantly rushing straight towards a safe balanced position (into the comfort zone or to withdrawal from a stressful situation), there is a reward waiting for us in the process.
First of all, we get exceptional fluidity of movement, which can push us into a state of flow. We really start to enjoy it, and because of this, the problem we are solving becomes easier, and all of a sudden we have “perfect balance”. The brain then processes signals from the body the fastest, and when we return to the comfort zone after such a venture, we can notice that everything is happening more slowly. Namely, the brain continues to experience events at a higher frequency for some time.
Sufficiently demanding balance training always leads us to deeper insights than is the knowledge of forces and moments on the body and opens the way to intuition. We can no longer solve very demanding problems using the same linear process, but we need a special mental attitude. The most difficult problems can only be solved in a state of flow, and through balance training we discover its functioning in a relatively simple way.
Many times we help ourselves to stay on the 2.5 cm wide webbing above the abyss by using visualization, other times the music of electric guitars helps more, still other time focusing on calm, even breathing. Sometimes your head is completely empty, you just walk and admire the surroundings.
If I could only use the aforementioned skills for slacklining, I probably wouldn’t be doing it anymore. Because balance in life or in a much broader context works on the same principles, slackline is also an excellent training tool for life.
To sum up, with balance training we first improve physical abilities. These are quickly joined by mental ones. Therefore, the effects of such training benefit us when slipping on the ice or in a battle under a basketball hoop in the crucial seconds of the game, as well as in debates, family quarrels and enduring stressful situations in business.