Should you always do the asanas on the right side first?
You May Have Developed Some Wrong Habits
Your body likes to move in the direction of the least resistance, or the way it becomes accustomed to. You walk, sit, stand, bend, and carry things in a habitual way, which may be the wrong way, such as, using one side of your body more, or differently than the other. Using your body in that particular way may feel easier and more comfortable at first but, over time, that may lead to aches and pains in various parts of the body because of the imbalances that you may develop.
When doing asanas also, your body wants to move in the direction of least resistance.
For example, when doing a side bend, if you are able to bend more and easily to the right side, your body would always want to bend to the right side first, and would want to stay there longer. If you are stiffer on the left side, when you bend to the left side, you would feel resistance. It won’t feel good, and you would come out of the posture very quickly. You would also put more effort and spend more of your energy on the right side, leaving less for the felt side.
Another example; if your right leg is stronger than the left, your body would want to do one-legged pose, such as the tree pose, always on the right leg first and stay there longer, making the stronger leg more strong, and the weaker leg would remain weak.
So, if you continue your asana practice this way, the imbalance in the body can become significant enough to cause aches and pains in the body. Many yoga students who have been practicing asana for many years wonder why they still experience constant aches and pains. This is one of the reasons.
To restore the balance, you will need to pay more attention to the weaker or stiffer parts of your body, and train yourself to use the body in a balanced manner.
Right Side May Not Always Be Right!
Traditionally, the asanas are done first on the right side for two reasons.
- The subtle energy channels, and the flow of prana on the right side are associated with the solar energy which is active and positive and, so, by doing the asana first on the right side you are supposedly activating that energy first to create more interest and enthusiasm in the asana practice.
However, the same effect can be generated by keeping the mind relaxed, and maintaining an attitude of honour toward the asana practice.
- A scientific reason, introduced recently, for doing the asana first on the right side is that by compressing on the right side of the abdominal cavity first helps move the feces in the descending colon toward the transverse colon, and eventually out. It may be true partially, but can also be argued. The overall practice of asanas improves the blood circulation and all other functions of the body, but I don’t think it makes much difference whether you do the asana on the right side or the left side first, especially when you are doing an asana only once, and holding it only for 15-20 seconds.
There are several pranayams and kriyas such as Kapalbhati , Agnisara, and Shankh Prakshalan etc which involve constant contractions of abs, and cardio-like rapid and repetitive movements, that are helpful in stimulating bowel movement. However, that is only a minor and secondary benefit of practicing pranayamas. There are many more.
How to Decide Which Way To Do An Asana First?
Before doing an asana, take a pause to observe which way the body wants to move first. If the feeling is neutral, then do the asana on the right side first. But if you can feel that the body wants to move to one particular side, say the right side, then just do the opposite. If you are doing a side bend, do the left side first, then the right, and again bend to the left. With this practice you will improve your flexibility on the left side also, and restore the balance in the body, provided that you do the asanas properly.
Once the balance is restored, then you can go back to the traditional way of doing the asana, starting on the right side first, but paying equal attention to both sides.
Apply the same method to the twists, and forward and backward bends.
Doing asanas with an attitude of restoring and maintaining balance in the body is more important than doing the asana on the right side first.
Become More Aware and Take Responsibility
Become more aware of how you use your body. Do you always carry groceries with the same hand? Do you carry your shoulder bag always on the same shoulder? Do you stand tilted to one side, and always to the same side? When sitting, do you lean back for a long time, do you put more weight on one side, always the same side?
Make the needed corrections. Break the wrong habits. Become more active. Be persistent. Take responsibility for your well-being. You will be amazed how quickly the body starts to feel so much better.
From yogic point of view, remember, in order to know yourself you must take care of yourself properly. ❤ ❤