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Balance & Dizziness

Posted: 10/02/2018

How Does Balance Work?

There are 3 main parts to your sense of balance: visual (your eyes), vestibular (your inner ear), and proprioception (your body's sense of where it is).

Visual (Eyes)

Vision is usually the largest contributor to balance - this isn't too surprising, as a lot of our brain is devoted to using our eyes, and vision is typically highly accurate.Try standing on one foot (if that's easy then raise onto the ball of that foot) and think about the adjustments your ankle is making.Then close your eyes, and you'll find the corrections are later and need to be stronger.

Vestibular (Inner Ear)

There's a fluid in your inner ear that lets your brain know if your head is turning or tilted - it works pretty well if you have good posture and are healthy, but when your head isn't upright (for example, during shoulder/duck turns), you've had a drink or two, or have a cold, the information gets more confusing.As you take a couple of turns or spins, the fluid will start moving to match - and so stopping your spin can feel more disorienting than the spin itself (you've stopped, but your inner ear is still spinning).

Proprioception (Joints and Muscles)

If you close your eyes, you can still touch your nose - your brain knows where your hand is relative to your face.The same thing happens throughout your body - you can feel if your body is bent to the side or how flexed your ankles are.This ability can be greatly improved through practice and being relaxed (more tensed muscles give less accurate feedback to your brain) - yes, massage helps your dancing (if you needed an excuse)!

What Causes Dizziness?

That's when your senses of balance don't agree - your eyes say you're not moving, but your inner ear says you are - this is also the cause of travel sickness (e.g car or seasickness).
To improve your balance, learn to listening to your body more - it's the most reliable indicator for dancers (our head may be tilted to the side, and the mirrorball might have just dazzled us, but the floor is pretty level and reliable).If your reference point moves (e.g. your partner goes around you while you're spinning) your visual balance has more difficulty, but your body will (hopefully) always be connected in the same way.Learning to rely more on what your body tells you will reduce your dizziness; and getting used to being a bit dizzy will mean it doesn't affect you as much - you can build up a tolerance!

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