Intro: Dynamic Balance Board
Since Instructables has a challenge with the theme "Trash to Treasure" I thought I would explore that idea in this Instructable.
So... what do we treasure the most?
Material wealth, such as gold, diamonds, cars, houses, and electronics?
Or do we treasure health, well being, balance and a sense of satisfaction with whatever we have, how ever little that might be?
If it's the first one, then this Instructable might indeed just be a pile of trash.
But if it's the second one, then this pile of trash just might be, in fact, a key to one of the greatest among treasures...
Step 1: What Is It?
A Balance Board (in this case made of recycled materials) is a simple device that helps us find balance, both outer and inner.
It's a simple object based on simple principles: A lever, a pivot point, movement and balance.. It's not rocket science. Yet the resulting effect on the body and mind is nothing short of a profound treasure trove of inner wealth. No kidding.
Balance boards are used extensively for training for many sports including surfing, snowboarding, skateboarding, skiing, and any sport that requires a dynamic balance, and are sold commercially under various names and designs.
In its most basic form, a Balance Board is a plank of wood sitting atop a roller, and the user stands on the plank of wood and maintains their balance. That's it.
But there's much, much more to it than that!
Step 2: How It Works
A balance board can have a positive effect on both a physical level and a mind level, so I've divided the description into the 'outer' board, and the 'inner' board so the reader can more easily choose what's of interest..
The OUTER BALANCE BOARD
It works like this: stand on the board, and maintain your balance. That's it.
At first it can seem exceptionally difficult to do this, because the balance that is required can seem almost counterintuitive. But it is in fact, highly intuitive- that's why it can seem so foreign in the beginning.
However, the learning curve is very steep- steep in favor of learning it quickly.
Progress can come very fast for someone who sticks with it, practicing again and again, little by little.
Not only is it good for developing core body strength, but it also develops a more deeply intuitive sense of balance and spacial awareness.
The INNER BALANCE BOARD
So, why exactly is it a treasure trove of wealth??
Because when we use a balance board the dynamic that takes place in the mind-body complex is, simply put, one of simultaneous relaxation and concentration. This can be viewed from any number of perspectives: scientific, psychological, even spiritual. But one way to view it, that perhaps bridges all of these perspectives, is that it brings us closer, even if just a little bit, to our own natural state of being.
And is that not the "thing" we're all looking for? (even if we're not aware of it and are instead looking to material wealth, relationships, achievement, power, or whatever to feel fulfilled...)
This is the same reason yoga and meditation has become so popular, because people are seeking inner balance. And this is why surfing and other similar sports, aside from the hype, are so addictive; because we are plunged into an experience of being only in the present moment in complete balance... and there is nothing else like it.
How is it something so simple (there's that word again) can be so easily overlooked in favor of a material or ego-based gratification?
Perhaps because it's so near to us.. like looking everywhere for our own eyelashes- and yet we cannot see them because they are so close to us..
Step 3: How It's Made
A balance board can be made from many different materials in many different designs.
The one here was made from scrap lumber and other junk materials that for some would otherwise end up in a trash bin..
Here's some of the materials and tools that were used here:
• a piece of sturdy plywood or boards for the deck
• Smaller pieces/ strips of wood
• Something to serve as a rolling fulcrum (pivot point) -in this case I used a scrap piece of large diameter (11cm) PVC pipe.
• wood screws
• a saw for cutting the wood and PVC pipe
• A drill/ Screwgun
• thin drill bit to make pilot holes
• screwdriver bit for the screws.
• (optional) wood files/ shapers to make custom shapes
In every case when fastening parts together, I first drilled pilot holes to prevent splitting and cracking, and countersunk the screws so they are below the surface of the wood or other material they are fastened to.
The balance board has two basic parts: the deck and a rolling fulcrum.
The easiest would be to use a single piece of wood, such as plywood, as a deck.
I've also heard of people using old skateboard decks with the trucks removed.
I had some scraps of 3x12.5cm hardwood lumber, so I decided to use two pieces to make a single deck.
Although a board by itself, paired with a roller would itself work, it's good to have stoppers for the roller so the board (and your body) doesn't fly off the roller when it reaches the end of the deck.
I used some scrap pieces of 3x3cm board as "roller stoppers", and these also served to keep the two deck boards secured together.
Also I used some thin pieces of plywood scraps running the length of the deck to make a track for the roller to stay within.
Another way to do it is to use a roller that is considerably longer than the width of the deck, allowing the deck to 'float' from side to side as it travels over the roller.
Also it can be seen that I have two pieces of wood at each end of the top side of the deck. These were originally the bottom of the deck, but I decided to move the roller stoppers in closer to the middle, away from the ends of the deck, which allows for more leverage to balance the board when the deck reaches the end of its travel limit. The wood pieces on the top side of the board now serve as foot 'cants'. A cant elevates the outside of the foot, making it higher than the instep to allow the knees a more natural alignment with the feet, and allowing for a lower center of gravity in the body which assists in balance.
The roller can be anything that allows the board to roll smoothly over it and provides enough height for the board to be high enough off the ground.
I used a scrap piece of 11cm PVC pipe, but other objects will work too; a dense foam yoga-type roller, I've even heard of people using a two or three liter plastic bottles filled with water.
Fabricating the roller was the most challenging part.
The PVC I used is the thin-walled type, so over time the roller cracked under the weight of the deck (I would use the thick walled type next time).
The idea for a low cost scrap material solution was to cut out disks of plywood in the same size as the opening of the PVC and fasten them in the ends of the pipe to make it more rigid. Cutting a perfectly round disk was not as easy as I thought!... And getting it to stay put took some time too.
In the end, when epoxy didn't work, I used screws to fasten them, and to date they're still holding up.
After assembling the roller, I wrapped it in a layer of duct tape to keep it from being too slippery and sliding out from under the board.
Step 4: Using the Board & Tips
Now that the board is functional, it's time to use it!
If it's your first time, it's worth mentioning a word on safety. It can be tricky at first so use common sense and be careful.
Here's some tips on using the board:
• give yourself plenty of space to use it
• having a chair in front of you to assist with balance can be helpful in the beginning. It can also help to have a friend spot you.
• a smooth surfaced floor will be faster than a carpeted floor. Try at first on a slower surface, such as low carpet, then as you get a feel for it or want to challenge yourself, use a smooth floor.
• stepping onto the board and getting started can actually be one of the most difficult parts! So I've included a numbered picture to help with this.
1) with the roller in the middle of the deck and with your weight centered, gently step on the board.
2) with your weight mostly on the lower foot, place the other foot to an upper position, wider than your shoulders (but not too wide).
3) with knees slightly bent, slowly shift your body weight toward the upper foot.
4) slowly increase the amount of weight/pressure you are putting on the upper foot until
5) the board lifts off the ground. Be prepared for the board to move! And
6) respond as needed to keep the board balanced on the roller.
• it is much easier to keep the board moving than to try to balance completely still.
• there can be a tendency to look down at the board. It can also be helpful to raise the head and look around you.
• practicing little by little seems to develop fast muscle memory. Do short practice sessions and take breaks before doing it again.
• once you get the basic sense of it, there's many ways you can challenge yourself and increase skill level. These include bending the knees into a low body position, changing the stance angle of the feet, and moving the feet closer together for starters.
• and most of all Have Fun! There can be a tendency to get serious and even frustrated when learning to balance on it, but learning comes faster when we're having fun!
There's many videos on YouTube showing how to use a balance board, and advanced techniques on using them.
Step 5: And Most Importantly..
A balance board can be a lot of fun to do with friends and family and makes a great training tool for board sports and other sports.
A treasure trove of inner wealth is yours for the taking— and sharing!
Enjoy in good wealth— that is, good health!
Special thanks to Yuki•chan, Tomoko•chan, and Wanaka•chan for photos!
Feel free to post questions/ comments/ and ideas