In my nearly 25 years of instructing yoga, I’ve learned and unlearned a great deal about how yoga practice can affect the experience of being human, and how our lives are informed by both our physical body and mental awareness. I’ve gained insights from my own practice, as well as by observing my yoga clients, and I delight in sharing little tidbits I’ve picked up along the way.
For example, are you aware that you don’t have to practice an asana the same way on both sides of your body? In fact, you can skip one side all together if that’s what feels best at the time. It’s funny when I share this specific morsel because some people wholeheartedly welcome the information as they innately feel it in their own practice, but more often than not most view it as anathema, worrying about being “out of balance” and not being “perfectly” aligned.
The thing is, whether we notice it or not, our bodies are full of dissimilarities, inside and out. Our left lung is slightly smaller with one fewer lobe than the right, and our heart, liver and stomach aren’t “centered” along the mid-line of our body. And when we compare our limbs from one side of our body to another, there are almost always noticeable differences in length, strength, and appearance. Heck, the two sides of our face don’t even match up evenly. (Perhaps you’ve even played around with the TikTok and Instagram filters to see for yourself?)
Strangely enough, when we become aware of any real or perceived differences within our bodies, our over-thinking mind tends to respond critically, “Oh, good grief! I’m lopsided!” However, mindful awareness allows us to tap into a deeper connection regarding how we think of ourselves. It’s the space where our internal self-talk can be redirected by the honest sensations of the body where we recognize for example, that our right hip has a lesser range of motion than our left. Instead of telling ourselves over and over that we have a “bad” hip, we simply recognize that one hip feels tighter than the other. No judgment, just a fact. This information, grounded in reality, then invites us to pour a little more attention into our left hip if we’re drawn to do it.
So how can noticing differences in our bodies while we’re on our yoga mats carry over into our lives off the mat? When we observe the parts of ourselves without affixing any value, we can more easily and lovingly accept who we are, and where we are in any moment; and by proxy, this mindfulness and tolerance can carry over to how we perceive others.
Considering there are over 8 billion people in the world, each with a distinctive personality, likes and dislikes, and ways of relating to the world, it behooves us to remember that each of us plays an integral part in life on Earth, and that judgment causes turmoil, suffering and disruption. Just as the diverse parts of our bodies work together as a whole, our differences can be our strengths if we let them.
Lanita Varshell and Diane Ambrosini invite everyone—regardless of age, size, physical ability, ethnicity, or gender, to join them on this mystical land for a life-changing week, June 10 – 17 – “A Gentle Way Yoga Retreat: Mindfulness And The Practice Of Inclusivity.”
ABOUT DIANE AMBROSINI:
Diane Ambrosini, MA, is the author of the highly acclaimed Instructing Hatha Yoga: A Guide for Teachers and Students. An anatomy geek, Diane earned a Masters Degree in Exercise Science, with an emphasis on Kinesiology and shares her knowledge with her yoga clients as well as those studying to be yoga teachers. She is a certified yoga therapist (IAYT) and Reiki practitioner who uses both Eastern and Western modalities to guide clients deep into self-healing.
Diane strives to improve the art and science of teaching yoga and to help others enjoy the myriad benefits of yoga as a lifestyle. She is an outdoor enthusiast, and her students love that she presents knowledge from her heart with a sense of humor, inquiry, and humbleness.
Learn more about Diane: di4yoga.com