Flexibility, balance, strength and endurance are common components of a yoga class. The poses alone provide an excellent workout, but if you’re ready for something different, consider adding stability balls to your practice. This is a fun way to recruit core musculature, incorporate more balance work, and increase range of motion.
Yoga on the Ball Details
Goal/Emphasis: a basic yoga practice incorporating the stability ball
Time: 45–60 minutes (can be shorter or longer depending on how many reps you do or how long you hold poses)
Equipment Needed: a yoga mat and a stability ball for each participant (When lying or sitting on the ball, keep it on the mat for added traction. If available, place a step riser nearby to secure the ball during final relaxation.)
Music: soothing background music appropriate for a mind-body practice
Help your class members choose the correct ball:
- When a person sits on a stability ball, there should be a 90° angle at the hips, knees and ankles.
- Make sure the ball is firm and filled to the manufacturer’s recommendations. A ball with less air may be more supportive, while a ball with more air may require more stability from the user.
- Before using a ball, always check it for wear or punctures.
Sources: The American Council on Exercise 2001; Geithner 2011.
Centering and Warm-Up (5–10 minutes)
Start seated on ball, feet flat on floor. Cue participants to maintain neutral spine, engage abdominals, and open the chest. Introduce calming breaths with long inhalations and exhalations.
- Inhale: Reach arms overhead. Exhale: Bring “prayer hands” down midline of body. Repeat for several breaths.
- Place hands on thighs (feet are hip-width apart, or in wider stance if needed for support); round the back, bringing chin toward chest for seated cat. Reverse and extend spine, lifting head and chest up for seated cow. Flow gently through this cat-cow variation for several breaths.
- Return to neutral spine, and place right (R) hand on side of ball. Reach left (L) arm up, and laterally flex spine. Switch sides. Flow through both sides, connecting to breath.
- Return to center, and slightly lift one foot off floor. Encourage students to find a focal point as they balance.
Progression: Lift both arms to front.
Regression: Place hands on ball.
Sun Salutations (10–15 minutes)
- Stand in mountain pose, ball at feet. Inhale: Raise arms up. Exhale: Move into forward fold.
- Place hands or forearms on ball, and roll it forward, extending arms. Push hips back, creating length in hamstrings and spine, as in downward-facing dog.
- Roll ball back in, return to standing, and lift ball overhead while stepping R foot back into high lunge.
- Return ball to floor, and move prone over ball for plank. Place stomach on ball, and step L foot back to meet R foot. Place hands on floor directly beneath shoulders. Simultaneously walk hands and roll forward on ball until it is under upper thighs. Feet are suspended above floor, abdominals contracted. Progression: Roll until ball is under shins. Regression: Keep hips on ball.
- Roll back until feet touch floor and hips are on top of ball. Place hands on ball and extend spine for cobra. Progression: Lift hands off ball, and reach arms overhead.
- Release cobra, and keep L foot back, stepping R foot forward for high lunge. Reach ball overhead.
- Bring ball back to floor, and step feet together for downward-facing dog.
- Return to mountain pose. Repeat sun salutation four to six times.
Balance Series (5–7 minutes)
- Hold ball, arms parallel to floor, and sit back into chair pose. Progression: Raise arms perpendicular to floor, and/or lift heels. You can also do spinal twist, aiming ball to one side.
- Release and segue into tree pose, lifting ball overhead. Repeat chair, and then perform tree on opposite side.
- Bring ball down to floor, and lie prone on top. Place hands on floor beneath shoulders, and straighten legs, feet touching floor. Lift L arm and R leg parallel to floor for spinal balance. Repeat with R arm and L leg. Regression: Instead of straightening legs, bring knees to mat.
Warrior Flow (5–7 minutes)
- Place ball on mat, and step R leg over and forward, so you’re sitting on ball in split stance. Place feet for warrior II (R foot pointing forward and L foot angled), and sink pelvis onto ball as arms spread parallel to floor.
- Keep legs still, and bring torso and arms forward into extended side-angle pose. Regression: Keep front arm on thigh rather than reaching it to floor.
- Exhale: Bring torso and arms back for reverse warrior.
- Flow again through warrior II, extended side-angle pose and reverse warrior.
- Come off ball, and face side of mat. Walk feet wide for wide-legged forward bend, and place hands on ball, rolling it forward, as in downward-facing dog. Release, roll ball, and walk feet in.
- Repeat all poses on L side.
Twists (2–3 minutes)
Sit on ball, feet flat on floor. Place R hand on L thigh, and rotate at spine for half lord-of-the-fishes pose. Keep L hand on back of ball. Progression: Cross L leg over R before twisting. Repeat on opposite side.
Supine Poses (3–5 minutes)
- Lie supine on mat, and place legs over ball. Extend knees and firmly press thighs together.
- Push hips up into bridge pose. Progression: Roll ball out so it’s under calves or ankles. Regression: Roll ball under thighs, closer to hips.
- Bring hips down, and place R foot on ball. Cross L ankle over R thigh. Clasp hands around R thigh, and roll ball in for supine pigeon pose.
- Repeat on opposite side.
Savasana (5–10 minutes)
Place ball to side (use step riser to ensure ball doesn’t roll). Restorative option: Keep legs on ball, as in legs-up-the-wall pose. Lead students through final relaxation.
The American Council on Exercise. 2001. Strengthen your abdominals with stability balls. Fit Facts.
Geithner, C. 2011. Selecting and effectively using a stability ball. Indianapolis: American College of Sports Medicine. www.acsm.org/docs/brochures/selecting-and-effectively-using-a-stability-ball.pdf; accessed Dec. 2013.