Why Can’t I Balance in Tree Pose? How to Improve Your Balance in Yoga

Image depitcts an iconic yoga standing balance pose-- Tree Pose-- shown here practiced with props.

The lights are low. The music is soft. Ah, this yoga class is just the calming, grounding break you need from your hectic week—until you fall out of Tree Pose (Vrksasana). No, your mental quiet will not be disturbed by this stumble! So you put your foot back on your leg. And you fall out of the pose again. How frustrating! And now you’re annoyed—the exact opposite of the state you seek from your yoga practice! How can you improve your balance in yoga practice?

“Why Can’t I Balance in Yoga?”

That’s what you’re wondering, right? How, oh how, do you improve your balance in yoga? Before we dive into some exercises you can do to steady your balancing poses, let’s understand some anatomical factors that affect balance.

First and foremost, balance is not stillness. Balance is constant movement. Try this experiment: Stand up. Close your eyes. Notice how you’re wavering a bit? The muscles that move your ankles constantly adjust to prevent you from falling over. So, rather than trying to freeze your ankles in a balancing pose, we’ll do some exercises to strengthen and fine-tune your ankle adjusters.

Young attractive woman practicing yoga, standing in Virabhadrasana II or Warrior ll pose.

Ankle Proprioception is Essential to Avoid Falling Out of a Balance 


Proprioception is your sense of where your body parts are in space. For example, come into Warrior II Pose (Virabhadrasana II)  (shown above) and gaze over your front hand. Now, don’t look: Where is your back hand? Is it in line with your shoulder, has it snuck behind your body, or dropped below shoulder level? Go ahead, look. Was your hand where you thought it was? If so, your proprioception was accurate.

Are you aware of wobbling in your ankles as you balance in yoga? Good! You have to sense those small ankle movements in order to be able to manage them.

Getting perturbed when you fall out of Tree Pose sucks, but training ankle perturbation improves static balance. Practicing wobbling helps keep your balance steady! For this reason, two of our exercises below will intentionally induce wobbles.

Get Hip to Better Balance

Organizing your hips is also essential to holding a balancing pose. Imagine that you’re standing in line at the grocery store. Your arms are crossed in front of you, and one hip is cocked to the side. You’re “sitting into” one hip. Now, firm your hip in toward the midline. You just used the gluteus medius, a muscle on your outer hip. You’ll need to do the same action when balancing on one leg. If your hip juts out to the side, it’s challenging to balance. So let’s add some exercises to wake up gluteus medius.

Try These Exercises to Improve Your Balance in Yoga

Well-being, health and fitness concept. Portrait of healthy young woman with strong flexible body, practicing yoga's Tree Pose.

Now that we understand the anatomical components of better balance, let’s target them with specific exercises to improve your balance. No more frustrating falls to break your yoga class calm! (Well, I can’t actually promise that you’ll never again fall out of Tree Pose (above), but practicing these should help some.)

Exercises to Train Perturbation and Improve Balance

Remember: training perturbation—practicing wobbling—improves static balance. Here are two super exercises to target this skill. (Plus, they’re fun.)

Practicing yoga's Tree Pose, a standing yoga balance pose, standing on a bolster to increase difficulty and to increase the balance challenge.

Bolster Your Balance

  1. Come into Tree Pose standing on a bolster or couch cushion. The cushier, the better! If you feel super unstable, you can hold on to a wall or chair. 
  2. Feel all the adjustments your ankle has to navigate? When you balance on a stable surface, your lower leg muscles will undertake a mini version of this to keep you upright.

Play Catch! 

  1. Come into Tree Pose again. (You can stand on the floor this time. Phew.) 
  2. Toss a yoga block in the air and catch it. I do not recommend a wood or cork block for this game! 
  3. Start with tiny tosses, and then challenge yourself to throw the block higher. 
  4. As your arms and torso move to catch the block, your hip and ankle muscles must correct to maintain your balance.

Image depicts tips to increase balance and stability in balance poses. One- legged balance and improving balance.

Exercises to Strengthen Ankle Muscles and Improve Ankle Proprioception and Balance

Circle the Block

Nope, we’re not looking for parking. 

  1. Lie down on your back. 
  2. Place a block on the sole of one foot and lift the block toward the ceiling. (Again, wood’s a really bad idea here.) 
  3. Now, make circles with the block. Start super small. As you circle your leg, your foot has to adjust to hold the block flat; otherwise, the block will fall. These are precisely the moves your ankle will make when you’re balancing in a yoga pose.

Exercises to increase proprioception and coordination in yoga poses.

Walk on Your Heels

  1. Lift the balls of your feet off the floor and walk up and down your mat on your heels. 
  2. You’re using tibialis anterior, a muscle on the front of your shin, to keep your forefoot raised. The tibialis anterior lifts your inner ankle when you balance. It also helps pull you forward if you start to fall back.

Heel Raises with a Block 

  1. Stand with your feet hips-distance apart, and hug a block between your ankles. 
  2. Now, raise and lower your heels—many, many times. 
  3. You’re using your personal muscles that run down your outer shin to squeeze the block. The peroneals prevent your ankles from rolling out when you balance. You’re also using tibialis posterior, a muscle on the back of your shin, to help lift your heels. The Tibialis posterior helps the tibialis anterior to raise your inner ankles when you balance. It’s also involved in pulling you backward if you start to topple forward.

Improve Balance with Exercises to Target Your Hip Stabilizers 

Take a Hip Hike

Remember our grocery line exercise, where you cocked your hip to one side, then drew it in toward your midline? This is similar—but harder! 

  1. Step one foot onto a block and let the other one dangle. It’s a good idea to hold onto something for balance. 
  2. Now, sit on your hip so the dangling foot lowers toward the floor. It probably won’t touch the floor. 
  3. Don’t bend your standing knee here! We want the movement to come from your hips. 
  4. Then squeeze your jutting hip in so that your dangling foot lifts back in line with the one on the block. 
  5. Repeat many, many times. This activity trains the gluteus medius to organize your pelvis while doing a balancing pose.

asana with weighted blankets and other props that challenge our stabilty.

Weighted Blanket to Improve Balance

  1. Stand on your knees and step your right foot out to the right so it looks like the back leg of Warrior II Pose. 
  2. Lay a blanket on your outer shin. A nice, hefty blanket will work best. 
  3. Now tip to your left and place your left hand on the floor, under your shoulder. Raise your right leg parallel to the floor so that you’re supporting the weight of the blanket. You’re using your right gluteus medius to keep your leg lifted, so you’re teaching it how to turn on when you balance.

It’s All a Balancing Act

Give these exercises a try to improve your balance. Will you suddenly, magically be able to hold Tree Pose until the teacher says, “Place your foot back on the floor”? Probably not. But these are super ways to train balancing skills over time. 

Moreover, they’ll help you catch your balance if you stumble while walking down the street. They’ll aid your ability to stand on one foot so you can put on your shoe. And, honestly, those skills are far more helpful than holding Tree Pose in a yoga class, wouldn’t you say?

Jennie Cohen

Jennie Cohen, YACEP, E-RYT 500, started teaching yoga in New York in 2006 and now teaches aspiring teachers, experienced teachers, and movement enthusiasts all over the globe. Study with Jennie to learn anatomy in fun and practical ways, to build or refine your teaching skills, and to expand your movement repertoire. Jennie’s fascination with the body in motion and her studies of the texts that form yoga’s philosophical foundation infuse her teaching, making it both informative and transformative.

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