We’re all a bit unbalanced — your body isn’t symmetrical — but that’s one of the many beauties of the human condition. By Victoria Jackson
My physio recently asked me if I used to be a pitcher or a bowler in my pre-yoga life. Apparently, the muscle imbalance in my shoulders is characteristic of this pattern of repeated movement. Nope, not even close. In fact, I am terrible at throwing…and I’m beginning to wonder if I can use my shoulder anatomy as an excuse for being quite so bad!
Being a bowler was a pretty reasonable idea. My physio couldn’t possibly know about my poor gym technique when my beginner enthusiasm trumped technique, nor the acute injury I sustained from heaving sandbags around to save my home from flooding. Though maybe he could have guessed at the more mundane fact of a right-hander always carrying a heavy schoolbag of books on the same shoulder.
I used to feel quite upset at the idea my body was so imbalanced. I got frustrated at how different some poses looked on one side compared to the other or how I always wobbled a transition on my left foot. The thing that changed it for me was someone pointing out that our bodies are not symmetrical on the inside, so why should they appear so on the outside. If the organs are different in each side of the body, why would the supporting structure be any different?
The scientific facts won me over far more easily than my efforts at self-compassion and love for my wonky shoulder. As I age — and I just celebrated a birthday, so I’m really aware of the passing years right now! — I become more comfortable with myself, with all the layers of my history and the effect they have, from carrying book bags to hefting sandbags. I’ve lost the righteous indignation that my body appears so off-kilter as to provoke speculative questions from the physio.
Now, when I wobble in transitions, I remember breaking my foot; when a bind doesn’t come easily one side, I think of the heavy sandbags and the time it took to heal my supraspinatus; as I feel the rib cage moving in rotations I think about the heart nestled within, more towards the left side.
Sometimes journalling my stories helps me stay compassionate to myself and be mindful of the ups and downs of life. And the final reminder: my handwriting is not so clear if I use my left hand (it would not be unkind to call it illegible!)...so why would my yoga poses be any different?