Have you ever tried to comb your hair using your left hand while you are right handed or vice versa? Or in yoga, have you tried to kick up with the non-dominant leg in ADHO MUKHA VRKSASANA (arm balance)? Do you feel that you don’t connect with that leg while the connection with the dominant one is effortless? Or in HALASANA (plough) have you noticed that the dominant leg touches the floor faster than the other? Have you ever thought of BALANCE? Balance not in the sense of “I can stand on one leg without falling down” but balance in the sense that both sides of the body are equal and used equally.
A month and a half ago I had a carpal tunnel operation on my right wrist. Very quickly I discovered that the left hand was unable to replace the right one. I started thinking of Balance in the yogic sense. BKS Iyengar, Guruji, in his book “Light on Life”, writes about BALANCE - that balance in body happens when both sides of the body are equal in strength, flexibility and dominance. He calls balance “Evenness in Harmony”. In order to bring evenness we have to pay attention to how the body acts; it appears that the dominant side has all the qualities meaning it is strong, flexible and quick. The other side is exactly the opposite: slow, awkward, weak, difficult to move and actually hides behind the dominant side letting it take the burden of the action.
How can we teach equilibrium to our body and thus create balance? Is it possible to make the weak side become equally dominant? Guruji says Yes. “in yoga, no limb of the body is kept idle”. He continues, that we think of our body being divided in two equal halves by the median line and ‘in whatever position (or condition) we are, we have to find balance’ (Sparks of Divinity p. 104, 13.16). We apply this knowledge of using both sides of the body in all asanas whether we stand in TADASANA or UTTHITA. TRIKONASANA, or backbending in URDHVA DHANURASANA or balancing in ADHO MUKHA VRKSASANA or simply lying in SAVASANA. It is hard work. Is it impossible? No, if we approach the notion of Balance with SATYA and TAPAS, with truthfulness, honesty and intensive practice.
In our quest to balance the two sides of the body SATYA, truthfulness, is the first step. We have to acknowledge and accept truthfully our weakness. Then we have ‘to nurture’ our weaker side, as Guruji says, and move on by avoiding using the dominant side though we might think falsely that this action will slow us down in our yoga learning. I repeat Guruji’s words “in yoga, no limb of the body is kept idle”. So we come to the second step TAPAS, burning desire, intensive practice. We must practise energetically and methodically in order to use all the limbs of the body and bring the two sides of the body in balance. It might take a long time but the result will be rewarding. So, LET’S DO IT.
With gratitude for Guruji’s wisdom and teaching,
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