Possibly due to my healing injuries on my left hamstring and right knee, I’ve been noticing the imbalance between my right and left side a lot. I’m definitely one of these people who never lies in the middle of the mat unless I pay special attention to it. While the injuries are making the differences between both sides quite obvious*, I’ve also started noticing much more subtle details, for exemple in the way I distribute my weight on my feet.
Interestingly, senior teacher Garth McLean came to teach a weekend workshop two weeks ago, and part of the teachings were directly linked to this. This was the 4th time I had the chance to work with Garth (I had already blogged about my experience two years ago here), and as usual I felt very grateful to be able to learn from him (such kindness! such energy! such wit!).
One of the main themes of the workshop was to imagine that we have 3 spines instead of one, so two extra outer spines let’s say, on each side of our usual spine. Most of the practice was then focused on keeping all three spines evenly extended. I found this incredibly useful to bring awareness in parts of the chest that usually get glossed over, so that the chest won’t sink in on one side more than the other. Since I am finally getting to a point where I manage to extend my spine in backbends and work from the upper back muscles rather than crunch the lower back, it made me aware of my tendency to shorten the right side…
But more than during the asana practice, what really openned a new window of understanding for me was when he taught pranayama. Sitting pranayama is difficult for most people, myself included. There are two main things I struggle with: keeping the chest lifted, and not overdoing the breathing. Keeping the three spine imagery, he told us to exhale, thinking as if the inner side of the outter spines are lifting up. This made a huge difference for me. First, it strongly prevented my chest to sink on the exhale without feeling like I had to fight hard for it. It made keeping the chest lifted very natural. Since it seems conterintuitive to lift up during exhale, this also prevented me from exhaling for too long, which I tend to do – inhaling for long durations is usually harder for me.
So much more to learn, the yogic journey is such an exciting one!
* This was especially obvious during my exam for janu sirsasana: on my “good” side I was sitting on the floor with chin to shin; on the “doubly injured” side, I could not bend forward even while sitting on a height.
PS: I got a bonus tip to help healing my knee. Garth made us do supta padanghustasana I with one belt on the knee that is up, the buckle just under the patella to the inner side. The belt handle goes behind the knee to the outside of the leg, then into the hand of the same side of the leg that is up. Another belt is on the foot of the up leg, with the buckle bringing the outer foot down. ‘t is great.
PPS: I just handed in my PhD thesis! Now waiting for the approval from the reading comittee, meanwhile taking some well-deserved holidays 🙂