The sensory development notes published on this website are prepared in collaboration with an on behalf of Developing the Self Developing the World and to accompany the book “Spirit-led Community – healing the impact of technology” by Lisa Romero. The complete document complementary to the book can be opened here.
The sense of balance is the experience of being in harmony. The balance sense perceives our relation to the external spatial world. Based on our perception, we adjust our balance. When someone moves closer to us we inwardly and externally adjust ourselves to maintain a state of harmony. By experiencing equilibrium in our physical body, we have an inner experience in our feeling life. This helps the sense of balance to mature and grow a relationship to inner harmony in our whole being.
Hyper sense of balance
A hyper sense of balance gives a heightened experience of the effort that it takes to keep from falling or leaning over. The person can feel disorientated when the environment is out of place and slightly lopsided and therefore have to overcome a tendency to avoid heights, unstable paths and even rooms that are not proportionally arranged. They can feel wobbly as soon as they put one foot onto the balance beam, so they pull back or they take the risk knowing that every little move is fragile. Some personalities will avoid risky activities, whereas others will show off their refined balancing skills. They are sensitive to spinning around or sailing on boats because the point of equilibrium is always changing and this inner effort to maintain their equilibrium and not be overcome by the outer imbalance can be exhausting as well as sickening. Knitting and activities that require crossing from the left and right brain, and left and right hand can be tiresome and if their handwork is lopsided, or tight it may be because they are concentrating very hard.
Hypo sense of balance
A person with a hypo sense of balance is less aware of the effort that is required to keep upright. They can enter unstable surfaces or heights without first adjusting their inner equilibrium and as a result they may fall over, or climb the tree,but then not know how to get down. When sitting, the tendency is to lean to one side and against things although they are not aware they are doing so. They have not been able to gauge that they are falling into the space. Their drawings can be similar, in that the page has big empty spaces on one side that they have not consciously created. They may swap between hands during activities or for different activities. Making mirror image patterns may be difficult, and there can be a delay in when the child draws a cross, as this ability is a representation that an inner equilibrium has been discovered. Knitting and activities that require crossing from the left and right brain, and left and right hand is likely to be lopsided because they cannot judge when it is off balance and it is difficult to know what to do to make it balanced. Some may feel disorientated and exhausted because they don’t know what is going on and can’t figure out what to change in themselves to do as the teacher asks. Others might do a lot of vestibular stimulating activities until they feel the satisfaction of inner equilibrium.
How to harmonise and support the development of the balance sense
Ensure that all children have daily opportunities of losing uprightness and regaining it in activities such as using stilts and bicycles, crossing wobbly bridges and walking upon stump ends or rocks around a garden edge. Having non-uniform spacing between steps keeps us aware of where we have to place our feet; it doesn’t exercise the balance sense if someone else has figured out where we should put our feet and controlled the environment. Many opportunities can be made available in a home, garden and while out and about. It is not necessary to push a child towards balancing, in fact if a child is pushed or made to find their sense of balance in a physical way before they are ready, their relationship to the full context of what the sense provides can be in itself, unbalanced.
The interest increases at about four years old. Playing statues, and doing Eurythmy, are exercises in holding one self in equilibrium. Knitting, weaving, ball sports and games where the midline has to be crossed on the vertical and horizontal plane harmonise balance. Balancing a variety of organically shaped objects into a tower, and sculpting with clay, sand and wax are a practice in balance even though it is not balancing our body.
We need to experience what balance is to be able to find a weight or measure that will make something harmonious. Mathematics, geometry and music require balance and can be used with props and gestures and extended to comparing weights and measure. Also useful are form drawing and moving in patterns such as the figure 8. It is good practice for the balance sense to free draw and handwrite on unlined paper rather than colour between the lines. Children new to writing can draw the lines on the page themselves then write upon the lines, this is a double practice of the balance sense. Wheeling barrows of dirt, digging holes and filling pots with dirt uses the balance sense to hold the weight and perceive the measure. Singing in rounds and harmony takes the practice into the social realm.
Ergonomic furniture that encourages effort in uprightness can be helpful if also given the chance to be free of props to remain upright. The nursing application of quark compress over the chest and a footbath that alternates between bowls of hot and cold water awakens a middle space, a point of balance. A lemon footbath can also be grounding which helps establish a starting place for the inner sense of balance.