This article is from the Recreational Figure Skating FAQ, by Karen Bryden with numerous contributions by others.
The most frequent cause of balance problems is posture. It is
imperative that you keep your knees bent, torso upright and head up.
Keep you eyes at least over the top of the boards. There seems to be a
natural defensive tendency to crouch down, bend forward and look down
at the ice. If uncorrected, this leads to a recurring problem which
manifests itself as poor balance - it will show up every time your are
uncertain or let your mind wander.
The problem is that you need to keep your weight over the "center" of
your skates. Any time you lean forward or let your head drop, you tend
to shift your weight towards the toes of the skates. The way skates
are designed, the rear of the skate has a large curvature and is
relatively stable, while the front has a smaller curvature and is
relatively unstable or eager to turn, not to mention the ever-present
As far as improving balance -- start with posture. Get an instructor
or more experienced skater to watch you both as you skate and as you
prepare for the moves you're having trouble with. Have them tell you
the instant you start to lean, or your head/eyes drop. Ask them to
help you correct the position - saying "that's good" or perhaps a
little press upwards on the chin when you slip...
You can also do some exercises during your normal skating. Make a
point of going around the rink with your eyes fixed on the top of the
railing, the top of the hockey barrier, the intersection of the walls
and roof or even the lights! Get a feel for how your weight sits on
the skates as you shift your balance and how much more stable and "in
the groove" they are when you're weight is on the rear of the blade
and what happens when you let it shift forward again. You can try to
follow another skater, and keep your eyes on their head while you let
your body match their stroke and body position.
Some lean problems seem to stem from having your arms dangling with no
clear idea of what to do with them. A good start is to hold the
"dance/figure skating" position, with your arms out to the side and
down at about a 45-degree angle, palms down and hands open. Imagine
you're trying to levitate off the ice with palm-power. Then move your
hands around - from back to front and at different angles to feel how
your balance shifts as the arms, shoulders and head move around. The
natural tendency is to "compensate" by shifting one part to offset the
movement of another.
If your "balance problem" does have a posture component, the sooner
you correct it the better. Bad habits die hard, especially so when
they're linked with early feelings of insecurity.
It really is important when skating to keep your head erect and your
eyes looking ahead at all times. You cannot skate well with your body
leaning forward and your head down. The more you allow yourself to do
this as a beginner, the more it will rear it's ugly head later on each
new thing you do, or whenever you are uncertain or insecure. BELIEVE
ME, I'M GUILTY, I KNOW!!!
Admittedly, it will feel insecure at the first, but that will pass
with a bit of practice. You'll find that there is a happy stance with
your knees somewhat bent, back a bit arched (aka chest out) and your
head erect, and your weight poised just aft of the center of the
blade. It will feel and look good and your skates will seem to glide
and move with a minimum of fuss and energy.