Four-year-old Rohit couldn’t understand why his parents and grand parents were so happy on seeing his 10-month-old sister, Ruchi, take a few unsteady steps towards her favorite toy. What was so unusual about her walking -after all, he could walk and run without anyone’s help, yet no one ever clapped nor hugged him, the way they were doing it for his sister.

Unable to hold his curiosity any longer he decided to talk about it to his closest friend and guide – his mother. His mother explained him unlike animals, human children cannot stand on their own feet soon after birth. They take time to do so.

Wandering indian tightrope walker
Wandering indian tightrope walker on a beach in Goa. Katoosha / Shutterstock.com

Like most animals, babies too are dependent on their parents to teach them everything. Animals teach their puppies what to eat, how to search for food, who are enemies and who are friends.

Similarly, humans too teach their babies a lot of things. A human child cannot do things on his own till he is at least 3-4 years old.

The most difficult task of all is to teach the child to balance himself/herself on both their feet and eventually walk. What seems so easy for Rohit now, required lot of hard work and dedication on the part of his parents.

Giving it serious thought Rohit felt that just being able to stand up or to walk, was one of the most amazing tricks that he had learnt! It is a trick that every human being has to learn. In fact if ever any animal was bestowed with the power to think, it would be amazed at the way it can do this balancing act without even being taught how to!

When you stand still you are performing a constant act of balancing. You change from one leg to the other, you use pressure on your joints, and your brain tells your nerves and muscles in your legs to go this way and that way.

Can you believe that just to stand still we use 300 muscles of our body? That is one reason why we get tired when we stand for long. Our muscles are constantly at work. In fact, standing is work.

How do humans balance on two legs?
How do we Balance Ourselves on Two Legs? [Illustration by Anup Singh]

While walking, we not only use our balancing trick, but we also make use of two natural forces to help us. The first is air pressure. Our thighbone fits into the socket of the hip joint so snugly that it creates a sort of vacuum. The air pressure on our legs helps keep it there securely. This air pressure also makes the leg hang from the body as if it has very little weight.

The second natural force we use while walking is the pull of the earth’s gravity. After our muscles have raised our leg, the earth pulls it downwards again, and it keeps swinging like a pendulum.

So next time you see an acrobat walking across a tightrope and balancing himself, remember he is doing a more difficult trick of balancing than you do every day. And like you, he had to learn and practice it for a long, long time.