Tadasana (Mountain Pose). We stand in “anatomical neutral”, palms face forward, joints stacked, apparently perfectly symmetrical. However, it is not helpful to aspire to absolute symmetry in this or any other asana because none of us is symmetrical. Why?
The centre of our yoga practice is the breath, but breath does not move through the body in a symmetrical way. The heart is left of centre. Therefor the left lung is smaller and structurally different from the right, to accommodate the heart. The liver is right of centre. Therefore the diaphragm, the main breathing muscle, starts higher on the right side to accommodate the liver.
Numerous studies have shown that our skeletal structures are not symmetrical and not only that, these asymmetries do not, in many cases, cause pain. Examples;
– Scoliosis (deviation or curvature of the spine). Mild to moderate scoliosis is surprisingly common and many people are unaware that they have it. It will cause asymmetry in movement but usually not pain.
– Leg length discrepancy is also common and will cause asymmetry in the pelvis and spine, but usually not pain. Other skeletal asymmetry can be found in for example hip sockets, causing one hip to outwardly rotated more than the other.
– Muscular imbalances. When we practice yoga, we become more aware of asymmetry in muscle strength. This can be caused by skeletal asymmetry but also can be functional, our body adapting to what we ask it to do. For example, a tennis player will have stronger muscles and bones in the dominant arm, a footballer will have stronger hip flexors in the favoured kicking leg. Again, studies have (surprisingly) not been able to link such muscle imbalanced with pain.
All of this demonstrates how adaptable and resilient our amazing bodies are. Yoga practitioners can become hyper aware of asymmetry in their practice but I invite you to become less attached to this ideal because it is not real.
Instead, strive for a balanced practice, working equally hard through all of our body, observing differences but not judging them.
Join me for an asymmetrical class this week to stretch and strengthen your beautiful, wonky frame 😉.