Designed BY Universe, Shaped BY Life

BY nature we are asymmetrical beings; parts of our anatomy are asymmetrical (e.g. contents of torso). Some muscles are highly active whilst others have been inhibited; a loop effect creates here and if you consistently fail to activate a muscle to its capacity it will inevitably stop working properly. Even in sports an individual will rely on one side predominantly for certain actions e.g. kicking, swinging, throwing. As a result of sedentary disease too some muscles will not be functioning optimally: excessive sitting, poor posture, ergonomics risk factors all can exacerbate asymmetry. Last but not least, injury and pain can also contribute to muscles not functioning optimally and surprisingly too, not always the muscles at the site of injury. Everyday life has a functional consequence. You have heard me remind you often enough in class ‘how you use your body will affect its function’. So there can be no surprize on reading this to find that one side of your body is dominant or stronger and more co-ordinated. It is a consequence of living your life the way you wish to and Hip Hip Hooray to that! I really wouldn’t worry about it too much.  Your body may have memorized sub-optimal movement patterns and may have been relying on faulty motor control, re-enforcing the asymmetry and carrying imbalances unaware, for DECADES before you even turned up to your first Bikram Yoga class. This carrying unawares reveals that it is not always as ‘dysfunctional’ as one might think! it is just life. Now I know many of you are not going to give up that sport/activity you love just because this imbalance has come to light now. HOWEVER!! Asymmetry of say 10-15% more or less should perhaps be actively targeted for correction/reduction.

Whatever the cause of the asymmetry the solution, for the most part, is the same: RE-EDUCATION. Before you commence the process of re-education get yourself a little perspective! Is there anything else you need to do first? Is that action you love so much causing you pain / chronic disease, in which case you should put it on hold or give it up before you start to re-hab/re-ed. Mmmmm… just sayin’ like 😉

Think about it! Your neural circuitry has been wired for asymmetrical movement patterns in muscles for how long??? It is going to take TIME to rewind and rewire this long memorized movement pattern and then strengthen the neuro-muscular unit to ‘hold’ (for want of a better word 🙂 ) the new movement pattern for better alignment.

You’ve heard me say it often: ‘how you look and how you feel can be two very different things’. If you have been doing something wrong, like, FOREVER! then trying to do it right feels wrong! The proprioceptive feedback where there is imbalance might be a little ‘askew’ 🙂 . This is just one reason why our Bikram MIRRORS are so important {Read: ~ Mirror Mirror ~}.

The mere act of tuning in in this way may bring you into a newer, albeit temporarily ‘awkward’ (again, for want of a better word 🙂 ), relationship with your body and its asymmetries BUT if you are going to blend your new found improved muscle activation into your motor programs for each movement you need to be PATIENT and DILIGENT AT ALL TIMES and WORK WITH THE SENSATION OF AWKWARDNESS. Don’t slack off on this important work; not even for a second in your class. Body asymmetry AWARENESS has to come and then IT IS UP TO YOU to acknowledge where your limit is with good form. You know what I mean? that ‘ol threshold/edge where your body starts trying to find the path of least resistance to sneak around your weaknesses so it can go higher/deeper? ! ~DON’T.GO.THERE.~ ! This IS your Yoga class work! The ‘good form’ limit I recommend holding ALLOWS for proper motor programming before you move into a deeper pattern. If you keep repeating old patterns they will only reinforce. THERE WILL BE NO IMPROVEMENT.

Please understand. Your YM Yoga instructors do not know why YOUR body has imbalances/distortions. You could sit and tell many therapists your history of injuries, lack of previous re-hab, sporting movement patterns or sedentary lifestyle movement patterns (or lack of movement), your birthing trauma and they can still only speculate as to whys (and you probably have long forgotten half of it).

Remember! The variables are just too many for your YM instructor to get involved with; think about your class fee and what you can realistically expect to get for it. We do hope you realise you are getting so much value for it anyway and then think WE ONLY HAVE YOU FOR 90 MINUTES; you have 22.5 hours outside the Yoga room where you may or may not be addressing the problems. There is no luxury of time to spend dwelling and analysing the histories especially if subject is unwilling to give up the current action that might be exacerbating the problem. We can only deal with the body here and now. This blog is set out to help get you thinking about things you may not have thought of before in your practice. It is not set out as being all encompassing or even complete: the body is complex ~ there are so many potential issues and variables; there may be other/underlying pathologies besides muscular that are the cause of the muscular issue: e.g. joint and connective tissue problems that have not being addressed prior to you making your new Bikram Yoga moves; these issues/variables may make the work harder and longer.

I know from my own body that the body is AMAZING at compensating and other muscles can get a job done albeit not as efficiently. Still a person can become ‘fit’ and ‘athletic’ looking despite using muscles inappropriately. In the longer term this can create another issue(s) and ultimately this can lead to structural changes if not addressed.

YOU might not even realise there is a muscle weakness because other muscles have compensated so well to do the work for them, but when you tune in you will start to see the differences IN THE MIRROR: little things (which are actually huge if you think about it) like the size of a muscle in action, the millimetre out of alignment your body wants to take because it is just ‘easier’ action in the short term. The important visual that shows you a clear distortion in alignment although it ‘feels’ like good alignment.

You don’t want your strong side to get weaker; you need to bring your weaker side up to scratch to match your stronger side. You need to give it special attention and work it HARDER. Of course you must use your stronger/dominant side in your Yoga practice too! The muscles on that side must be allowed to fulfil their dharma but there will be many postures where you really need to be attentive to working bilaterally EQUALLY. In those postures the strong side doesn’t work as hard in your new better way of working and so essentially it maintains until the weaker side catches up.

Ultimately you will want the movements you make in Yoga to be procedural; i.e. minimum having to think about every little thing and experience the joy of having the right muscles fire up automatically as needed. It will be a good day in your Yoga practice when you begin to wean yourself off those extra contractions that you have been doing in the shower and in the queue in the bank 🙂 and the constantly having to attend to keeping the asymmetry at the forefront of your mind.

Remember! You are dealing with your CNS perception and movement reality and the asymmetry of daily activity in life lays in wait outside the room waiting to put you out of balance again; dysfunctions may creep back in. It might feel like one step forward two steps back for a while. THERE IS NO QUICK FIX to replace the essential work that needs to be done. It is ongoing process of 90 minutes REPEAT REPEAT REPEAT or bust (just kidding. no. you won’t bust!! 🙂 )

EYE UP symmetrical movement in your postures (MIRROR work); start tuning into the wholly different bodies that appear on each side (left and right) when creating the same posture; feel for stability in the balancing postures one leg to the other; is one hip lifting/rotating while the other remains neutral? Look at bilateral movements: ‘Awkward’ posture is an excellent one to start checking things in early on in your class; e.g. do hips sway to one side? positioning of each hip, knee, foot and shoulders? Basically are anatomical end points shifting? Don’t force just use BEST EFFORT {Read: ~ Feel V. Force ~ }. As soon as each side is free and EQUAL again, crack on with it folks! Work both sides with 100% best effort. You may still be in ‘CONSCIOUS symmetry mode’ for a long time before the movement patterns become automatic.

Take your blend of therapies if need be BUT know that the Bikram method is just so therapeutic when practiced the right way. Good for healing. Good for transformation. Good for maintenance. You are on to a winning formula with Bikram Yoga. It is low impact i.e. we do not jump around in class. The ‘HOLDING’ of each posture in YOUR body’s most ideal form ‘STEADY’ at your best effort limit for minimum length of time prescribed will help to free up your body and build that improved alignment ‘memory’ in the body. It will of course also help you improve your balance (in the standing postures) and using the mirrors will help you improve your proprioception. You will just LOVE the specifity of Bikram Yoga instruction and its nice pacing i.e. there is a pause in between sets and in between left/right side work which is an OPPORTUNITY to recover, reassess, LOOK (mirrors), SEE, FEEL and collect information and reset/ get back to neutral and there is adequate time for placing/good set up before commencing your next posture. The hot environment enables many of the tightest bodies to start moving with more ease. The beautifully sequenced postures are each a preparation for the one following so easing your body gently into MORE MOVEMENT over the class period and doing every posture twice gives one a second, immediate chance to work more wisely, efficiently and, if possible or necessary, deeply in the second set.

Postures can of course be left out; practitioners should not pressure themselves to do everything all the time because the leaving out of an ‘action’ posture means the adding in of a, possibly more important, ‘resting’ posture ‘Tadasana’, ‘Virasana’ or ‘Savasana’, where one can REFINE THEIR ‘NEUTRAL POSTURE’ awareness and assess and establish what improvements can be made (Never idle in the hot room ! 90 minutes crammed with Yoga). The JOY of attending a public class to practice is you will get CONSTANT direction and reminders in class about all these things (amongst many other things).

People can have great expectations from their Yoga class, but they may be in need of other help too. Darren and I are qualified both Yoga therapists {amend 2018} and we know the therapeutic opportunities in the Bikram Yoga method therefore we don’t feel the need to set up one-to-one Yoga therapy where we know that if people really listened and tuned into the Bikram class instructions and learn to apply them to their body ‘as is’ they will be getting so much more for their class fee and WE will be facilitating many more people getting more benefits/therapy for less time and less money (you really can get more from your money out of this discipline). So we will persevere with this model knowing that each day someone new will ‘get’ this form of Asana based physical therapy that also has VAST mental therapeutic benefits.

For those cases that need a little more help to address, relieve, reverse existing underlying pathologies before you start doing the Bikram Yoga work? Well Jersey is abound with therapists of all sorts that are well equipped and geared up to helping you with the preliminary and/or additional work required to help you get back to neutral. {Read: ~ Responsibility; The Road Less Travelled ~}. Whilst dealing with such issues YOU CAN still practice Bikram but it may not be advisable to go to ‘end of range’ in each or any or all postures (speak with your instructor). !CARE! Please make sure you get a proper (formal) diagnosis before coming to your Yoga class or getting those alternate therapies! (not a self diagnosis from google because remember the site of the pain may not be where the cause lies);  it would be unwise to prioritize any therapies over formal medical diagnosis or recommendation.

We want to help YOU BECOME your own best teacher. We want to teach you to become your own therapist and fix yourself through your Bikram moves. We are promoting body symmetry in as much as it is possible in our asymmetric universe.  Our ultimate goal is to teach people to learn to PRACTICE Yoga. To get you there we will help you modify where need be, we will guide you in your proper movement in class and our hope being that that proper action seeps into other areas of your life. All things here being understood? Then YOUR willingness, diligence, repetition and perseverance are KEY! We’re here to facilitate getting you MOVING, HEALING, TRANSFORMING, SHINING, MAINTAINING.

Quick Revision TIPS
• Old body blueprints are hard to undo
• There is no ‘quick fix’
• ACKNOWLEDGE where the issue/weakness lies
• Get someone else to have a feel/prod of your muscles in action for you on each side when doing various actions; feel if equal tension exists for the same movements
• Get a formal diagnosis where need be
• TUNE IN: is one side firing harder than the other / hypertonic?
• OR is your dysfunctional muscle weak and doesn’t want to activate with ease?
• TUNE IN: give special attention to the area you want to TARGET to re-programme
• FEEL the movements in the muscle you are targeting on the dysfunctional side. Fine tune in to FORM and figure out in YOUR body how to maximize muscle recruitment IN THE MOMENT
• Establish a solid mind-muscle connection with the dysfunctional muscle. One great way of going about this is to perform lots of EXTRA work for the weaker/side muscles in the form of isometric contractions. These can be done anywhere anytime outside of the Yoga room even sitting at your desk at work.
• EYE UP your anatomical ‘end points’ in posture continuously in class and regularly in your day
• FOCUS primarily on creating the right SYMMETRICAL movement patterns in right direction; don’t spend time trying to get to maximum/ end of range even if it is your favourite posture 🙂 ); that will side track you from the therapeutic/remedial work you need to do
• Let your ‘good’ side be your guide/teacher
• ALWAYS: FORM over depth or height EVERY time
• If an action in your re-education process causes pain STOP DOING THAT ACTION (there will be another posture along in a minute you can work on)
• Every PROPER PRACTICE you will be a little bit closer to your goal
• Outside of YM: arrange your ergonomics to minimize stress on your body
• Learn how to correctly carry yourself through life to avoid the consequences of postural neglect (consider e.g. Alexander Technique or Mensendieck System for help with re-training); make adjustments throughout your day (10-12-20 times) as you go about your daily routine/tasks
• Rest/sleep properly positioned (remember chairs are the downfall of western civilisation 🙂 )
• Bikram Yoga
• LOOK at your body LISTEN to your body
• Go to Bikram Yoga today

Through repetition of the Bikram 90 minute meditation in motion you will find peace in your body and peace in a chaotic world. THIS IS YOUR BIRTH RIGHT

The person who does the necessary work sees the difference and feels the difference. Take it from here.

Om Om Om listen and become your own body whisperer
Love Trisha

You may also wish to read my previous blog on asymmetry Breaking Symmetry

1 November 2017


Comments 2

  1. Rob Panelli

    Great post Trish.
    This could have been story of my yoga journey!!
    Having had a flat left foot since age of six after accident I have spent my entire life compensating on one side.
    Of course I never knew the extent of this until I started your classes 4 years ago. Whilst I am able to hold strong poses on one side there is a battle going on every class to hold it on the other. Repetition is helping but it will be a long journey- my journey and as you say we are all different.
    Wish I could I could say I always listen to my my body but that isn’t the case.
    Omm omm listen to the teacher🙆

    1. Post

      Thank you Rob for taking the time to read and comment; I really appreciate I have a reader!! I hope in some way the post was also reassuring that you are never alone on your journey and that if you practice in the right way it will be an interesting and rewarding journey. ttfn 🙂

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