If we cut our body vertically from the middle, we will be astounded to realize that both the sides are an exact replica of each other (unless there is some structural abnormality). The human body is sculpted beautifully –two eyes, two ears, two cheeks, two clavicles, two arms, two hip joints, two legs etc. These body parts in pairs are placed equidistant from the middle and are identical to each other. This mirror image of two parts of the body (at least from outside) brings a symmetrical look and this symmetry is important not only for appreciating its beauty but also for a balanced development.
Asymmetry – How?
When people come to me for YOGA (a novice at yoga), they embark on a journey of rediscovering their body and mind. Very soon, they begin to discover, “how deep habitual patterns over the years has led the body into a lopsided development. A little more awareness and they unravel how sitting/standing in a particular manner, giving more preference to one hand than the other, carrying laptop bag on one particular shoulder, isolation exercises, sports specific exercises etc. has brought forth an asymmetrical body. We were most probably born symmetrical but these self-created habits, over the growing years, have turned into a default practice. Of course, we did not care to look at these in details may be until one of such habits screamed loud for urgent attention.
Role of Yoga
Yoga leads to attainment of a harmonious development of mind and body. Hatha Yoga in Sanskrit is “Ha = Right” & “Tha = Left”. One of the purposes of this interpretation is to align our skin, muscles and bones with the help of the asanas. Yogasana practice brings symmetry between front and back, left and right & top and bottom. Yoga (especially yogasanas) plays a crucial role in creating body symmetry in case of asymmetry and also in creating symmetry with the help of asymmetry. Yoga helps establish symmetry of:
- Strength and Flexibility
- Endurance & Stamina
- Muscular Development
- One part of the body to the other
- Breath & Body
- Body & Mind
“We have developed a preferred side”
Unknowingly though, we have developed a preferred side over years. This is noticeable even during performing symmetrical asanas, which works symmetrically on the whole body. A little attention and we will discover that it is always one particular leg, which goes back first when we perform Virbhadrasana 1, or it is always the one leg which gets lifted up first when we perform Pinch Mayurasana or it is always the same hand’s finger which touches the floor when we interlock our fingers for headstand. With this awareness, when we try to not use the preferred side first, there is the dwindling in the grace quotient causing further discomfort and we choose to stick again to our preferred side. But it is important to change side regularly to achieve a perfectly balanced development.
Yoga postures like “Setubandhasana (bridge pose)” fall in the category of symmetrical postures. In Setubandhasana, both the shoulders are fixed on the floor & both the gluteal muscles are off the floor. Performing such asanas brings harmonious development of the body especially in case of front-to-back imbalance. However, while performing these postures with awareness, it is easy to figure out which side of the body is most favored. Both sides of the body develop equally with regular practice but mostly in the same proportion when it comes to left-right imbalance.
Yoga also has asanas, which are asymmetrical in nature. Utthita Trikonasana, Virbhadrasana I, Virbhdarasana II, Parsavottanasana etc. are asymmetrical asanas. With these asanas, first we work with one side of the body and then with the other side. This is when the practitioners actually start discovering the limitations of their body better. It’s very common to notice the difference in case of Parsavottanasana where practitioner immediately claim that they had been able to go forward more in one side than the other. Asymmetrical postures are the best ways of correcting right – left imbalances.
Upon discovering the asymmetry in one’s body, one needs to work at creating the “Missing” symmetry. You will need to practice more on the weaker side than the other. Doing so will lead to a balanced development of the body. But again, ‘everything in the right proportion to create the symmetry’. It is important to include the practice of symmetrical postures, every single time, after performing few asymmetrical postures, for an integrated development.
Shammi Gupta, founder of Shammi’s Yogalaya holds an MA in Yoga Shastra, is a certified Yogic Therapist and Naturopath, has completed an Advanced Yoga Course and holds a Diploma in Yoga Education from Mumbai University. She is a certified trainer from American College of Sports Medicine and holds an MBA in HR & MBA in Finance from The University of Akron, Ohio, USA. She conducts Health Awareness Workshops for Corporates, Yogasana Workshops for Athletes and Yoga Therapy Workshops on different medical issues for patients. Among the celebrities Shammi trains are eminent personalities from the film and television industry and corporates.