Friday, May 7, 2010

Balance the body -- working the sides evenly

A few weeks ago I wrote about finding better balance in the standing poses but today's post is about a different kind of balance -- moving toward more evenness in the body from side-to-side.

It makes sense, of course, to do poses on each side -- i.e. Utthita trikonasana (Triangle pose) to the right, and then to the left.    We wouldn't do a pose only on our easy side, because we'd become more and more unbalanced.

Even in the "simple" poses, such as Parvatasana (diagram, arms), in which we interlace the fingers and press the palms toward the ceiling to extend the arms, we do twice to include the opposite interlock.     Maybe you remember how bizarre that felt the first few times you did this!

It's the same with Sukhasana (cross-legged seated pose).  It's good to practice alternating which shin is crossed on top.   And yes, that feels awkward too.

These seem like minor changes in the body, but we're so used to unconsciously positioning our bodies in the same way over and over again, and over time, that sets up imbalances in the body.  

But in our everyday lives, there are many things we do that are not balanced evenly from side to side.    We're right-handed or left-handed, so we use our dominant hand more often.   We step on the gas with our right foot.

If you do sports, you probably lead more with one side of the body than the other.   Sports like golf, soft ball, and soccer are "sided" sports (or at least I'm guessing soccer players usually kick with one foot?).

When you rake leaves or shovel snow, you're probably one-sided.

For most of these activities, it doesn't make sense to practice evenly on both sides!   Can you imagine learning to write well with your non-dominant hand!   Or swing a bat or a golf club on your other side?

Still, when we repeatedly do activities on one side, the body becomes unbalanced, and that can lead to injury.   The mindful practice of yoga poses helps us to keep the body from getting too unbalanced, and it reduces the likely-hood of injury.   This is a good reason to practice yoga!   We learn to strengthen our weaker (probably non-dominant) side, and we learn to create more flexible in our stronger side.   Your right and left sides will never work exactly the same, but you can reduce your imbalances.
I've been doing much more writing and other computer work over these last couple months, and talk about "mouse" arm has suffered, all the way from the wrist through the shoulder.   That's what inspired this post in the first place.   I've tried using the mouse with my left hand, but that is incredibly difficult!   As long as I don't overdo my computer work (oh, that's hard though!), and continue with my poses and stretches that help open my wrist and shoulder, I figure I'll be okay.    But I'm also looking into an ergonomic mouse!  (Anyone have any recommendations?)

If you're interested in what else I've been working on which has led to such wrist soreness, you can check out my Squidoo lenses (yes, it's an odd name, but a great community).   My Squidoo home page has a list of the lenses I've written -- some yoga and some on other subjects.

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