We are a balance of opposing forces. Becoming more body aware and recognising the differences between your right and left, can enable us to concentrate of bringing our body into a healthy balance and work to strengthen our weaker side. `We only get one body so we should do our upmost to gives it the care and attention it deserves.
Do You Have a Lack of Symmetry in Your Body?
Does one side of your body feel stronger than the other? If you’re right-handed and always seem to favour your right side, you might find that when practising yoga, you always tend to start with the right hand side – stepping forward with the right into warrior 1 or twisting to the right in your twists.
Plenty of yoga teachers will also tend to instruct poses on the right hand side first. At the conclusion of a class, it is traditional to instruct yoga students to roll onto their right hand side in the fetal position before coming up to sitting. Once you become aware of a left/right preference, you might start to question whether you should change your ways and start with your left or might be musing on what causes this difference and preference between the right and left sides of the body.
It is time to bring more balance into your body (and your life) so your left and right are more equal?
The Science Behind Your Left and Right
On a scientific level, it has been firmly established that the two sides of the body are controlled by the opposite hemisphere of the brain. Those two hemispheres have their characteristics. The right hemisphere is responsible for controlling the left side of the body and is the more artistic and creative side of the brain. It is associated with art awareness, creativity, imagination, intuition, insight, holistic thought, music awareness and 3-D forms. By contrast, the left side of the brain is responsible for controlling the right side of the body and is the more academic and logical side of the brain. Left-hand brain functions include analytical thought, logic, language, reasoning, science and maths, numbers skills and writing skills.
In Yogic philosophy, the right side of the body is known to be the masculine force while the left side of the body the feminine. Since the time of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (ancient yoga scriptures ), it is believed that the body is made up of a complex energy network of nadis and chakras. The Sanskrit name “Nadi” means channel, stream or flow. The nadis provide a transport system for the subtle body. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika estimated there were 72,000 nadis in the body, the two principal nadis known as Ida and Pingala.
Ida is Sanskrit for Lunar or moon energy and is associated with feminine energy, which is dark, slow and cool. Ida runs from the left side of the tailbone to the left nostril and relates to the right side of the brain. It is characterised as being introverted.
By contrast Pingala is linked with solar or sun energy. Pingala mean ‘tawny’ in Sanskrit. It is a masculine hot, fast energy associated with being extrovert. Pingala runs from the right side of the tailbone to the right nostril and relates to the left hemisphere of the brain.
Life is a Balancing Act
It is important to develop an awareness of how we use the right and left sides of our body and create balance between the two. We have been balancing our right and left sides since we were born, it could be as simple as noticing if you tend to stand with your weight on one foot. We are all unique, but it’s quite likely that we have developed imbalances along the way. An imbalance could be obvious such as having a foot that is turned out when we walk. Other imbalances are more subtle like one hip higher than the other.
If you tend to favour one side over another then it is likely that you are taking these habits into the yoga studio. It is worthwhile to notice how you are using your body in yoga poses. Correctly and equal alignment means protection against injury and muscular imbalances.
Discoveries like these enable you to start working more intelligently with your body, so that imbalances now don’t evolve into real postural problems later. Using your time on the mat to become aware of tension or aches developing on a particular side, is one of the many ways yoga is helpful to our outside lives. You may even be able to use relaxation techniques and breathing exercises, visualisation or self massage to alleviate the problem. Something simple like this may help to bring you back into equilibrium and help to maintain and restore your body’s health, but if not a medical professional such as a physiotherapist may be able to realign you.
Create Balance in Your Life
Breath has the ability to balance and heal. The most appropriate breathing exercise to balance the left and right body is alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Shodhana). This will bring balance to the ida (left) and pingala (right). An interesting fact is that at different times of day, we will have a dominant nostril. Like the rest of our body, the right and left nostril are not identical.
Watching our ‘Alternate Nostril Breathing’ tutorial video here
Alternate nostril breathing brings in a fresh supply of oxygen to the entire body and carbon dioxide is expelled. The breath is calming, will help with focus and increase vitality.
If you’re always opting for softer slower types of yoga like yin, try mixing it up wtih some flowing vinyasa (yang) or vice-versa. Find a balance between the internal cooling passive and slow yoga, with the external dynamic warm yoga.
There is plenty of variety on the Mary Ann Weeks Aveda Studio timetable to enjoy, so do browse our timetable and try a few of our wonderful yoga and pilates classes!