There is very rarely symmetry in human form: It’s what makes us beautiful, real and unique. You can see proof when looking in to someone’s face; it is rare that you will see one side as an exact mirror of the other and it is the same within the inner workings of our body.
We often have slightly different joint articulations, bones and muscular strength one side to another. then, as we move around our world we start to imprint asymmetrical physical patterns as well. We habitually carry a bag on one shoulder, a child on one hip, most of us have a dominant hand, we often dump all of our weight when standing into one hip and use the second side, as Tom Myers calls it, as a ‘kick stand leg’. We sit with one leg crossed over the other, we hunch forwards with our head and shoulders or over arch our lower back. And as yoga teachers will often demo on just one side over and over again! There are a myriad of things we do to our body that takes it out of optimal alignment & over time these habitual physical patterns can start to create tension, pain and injury within the body.
But how do we address something that is habitual and ingrained?
The first thing we can do is to notice our physical, habitual patterns or ‘samskaras’ and to then explore the effects that they are perhaps having on our body, so as to introduce more useful patterns. Once we bring about an awareness then we can bring about change over time. Remember though, that it probably took a life time to create the imbalance, so it won’t be fixed over night!
As a yoga teacher and body geek, I always use my own body as my laboratory for learning and I implore any new yoga teachers to do the same. If you’re trying to get your head around your anatomy studies then study yourself! If you have an ache, an injury or an imbalance, get really interested, what and where is it, what could be causing it and how can you heal or remedy it? Go and see a body worker and geek out and learn. The more you get fully interested in your own body the more you will be able to support and understand the anatomical workings of your students.
Recently, I had been getting a lot of tension down my right hand side ‘Lateral Line’ especially around my Glutes and Lower back so I went for my first ever sports massage and got to geek out on anatomy with Ben Lombard at Function 360, which was fascinating and painful at times!
During my massage with Ben we uncovered a number of imbalances; caused mainly by 4 years of carrying Kobe on my right hip. My Right QL (Quadratus Lumborum; the small, deep supporting muscle(s) either side of the lumbar spine), is really short and tight causing torsion in my right ilium resulting in my right piriformis (pear shaped, grumpy little man of a muscle in the glute and plays a part in external rotation of the femur) is really tight and weak, creating a lot of external rotation in my right femur and my ASIS (Anterior Superior Illiac Spine, aka hip bone) was higher than my left. As a result my left Gluteus Medius was extremely tender, tight and overworked due to trying to balance out the side! Phew!
I also have a tendency that I am very aware of, of placing more weight on the outer blade edges of my feet, which has created tension up through the lateral line of myofacia and presents, amongst other things, as tenderness in my peroneous longus (also knows as the fibularis Longus, a muscle that runs down the lateral (outer) side of my tibia (shin).
As you can see, from a simple, habitual pattern my whole right hand side was put under a lot of strain, resulting on overworking my left hand side whilst ‘locking it long’, ultimately making my whole body slightly out of whack. I talk a lot in my classes and YTT about how our bodies do not move in parts, we cannot target just one section of our anatomy without having a ripple effect on the whole system. We are one united piece, connected as a whole and when we get pain the area in which it is presenting is very rarely the actual cause of the pain.
During my session Ben used a number of different techniques including sports massage, physical manipulation and fascia release and also tended to my tender forearms and upper traps (hey handstands!) When we checked again after the session my ASIS were level again – hoorah! I am going back in a couple of weeks, so lets see if I have managed to maintain some form of balance.
To all the yoga teachers out there, I hope that you take time to look after this body, I am historically bad at making time for body work appointments, but I am making a promise to make it a regular thing. After all we only have one body. It needs to be looked after!