Yoga is perfect for creating more body balance, symmetry and core strength.
Why should we care though?
After all, isn’t all just aesthetics and putting too much emphasis on how we look isn’t really yoga is it?
In many ways this is true.
However, we also need to recognise that good postural habits are key to living a pain-free and happier life.
In fact that are a good few studies out there that recognise the significance of good posture on our physical and mental well-being.
Having a balanced and reasonably strong body (aka core) is part of achieving that healthier posture.
We are designed to be (on the whole) symmetrical.
If you were to cut a line down the middle both sides would be a replica of the other – two eyes, two ears, two cheeks, two arms, two hips, two legs, two feet and so forth.
This is the same with our muscles – for example, we have two triceps, two biceps and so on.
Our Modern Lifestyles Cause Asymmetries.
We have a pretty big battle to fight to achieve symmetry in today’s world. Here are just some of the ways that we develop asymmetries over our lifetime:
- being left or right handed
- carrying bags etc.
- using a phone or any other device for that matter.
- driving cars
- playing one-sided sports like golf or tennis
- sleeping on one side versus another.
I am sure you can think of other examples too.
Yoga For Body Balance and Core Strength
So moving back to the topic of this blog post – yoga for core strength and body balance
Why is yoga great for building better body balance, core strength and therefore ‘posture.’?
- Firstly, yoga builds a healthy amount of self–awareness. Before we can fix any asymmetries we first have to understand and feel where these imbalances are in our bodies. Yoga develops our ability to do this and do it well.
- Secondly, in a typical class, we work the left and right sides of the body evenly. Every pose is repeated on both sides. This alone can help us even our bodies out without making much more effort.
- Thirdly, yoga consists of both symmetrical and asymmetrical poses. Both are essential to helping us build our self-awareness of where our imbalances are and correcting them. They are also fundamental for building holistic core strength.
- Fourthly the use of various props can help us get more out of our practice and better results
Let’s see this in action.
Warrior II (VII) is an asymmetrical pose. Here is me practising it on one side. Every yoga pose will work on aspects of our strength, flexibility, endurance, stamina, muscle development, breath and mindset to various degrees.
As I hold VII (with the R knee bent) the following is happening:
- I am building strength, endurance and stamina in the leg and buttock muscles
- I am also building flexibility and endurance in the inner legs
- I am strengthening and opening up the front of the hips
- My breath is being challenged and my mind is probably wondering when I am going to come out of the pose because it is pretty demanding.
All the above sensations will be felt when I repeat the pose of the other side BUT the important thing to note here is that it will feel a little bit different.
These differences in what we feel help us to identify where our own imbalances are.
Where we feel stronger, tighter, and more or less flexible. This information is all there ready and there for us to digest.
Other poses that come into this category include Triangle, VIII, VI and Pyramid pose – to name just a few.
Symmetrical yoga poses are great for figuring how which side of the body is most favoured. For example, take Bridge pose (shown below). Bridge pose is symmetrical as I am doing the same things on both sides of the body.
As I hold it I can notice:
- the weight distribution between the feet. More often than not we will favour one side – pushing our weight down into one foot more than the other.
- The amount of weight I am using in the arms
- Whether both sides of my shoulder blades feel connected to the mat. Is one higher than the other
- Are both hips level or is there a dip on one side?
I can use this sensory information to make corrections as I hold the pose.
Other symmetrical poses include Chair and Goddess pose.
A Word on Using Yoga Props for Building Better Body Balance, Symmetry and Core Strength
Yoga is great for building body symmetry, balance and core strength and the use of props can take our practice to a whole new level.
The use of straps, bricks, blankets and resistance bands in our asana practice can give us even more information about where there is a difference in strength, mobility, flexibility and proprioception (our perception of where our body is in space.
I am a big fan of all three but have written a blog post about Resistance Band Yoga here if you are interested in finding out more.
Just for you, I have created a class exploring core strength and body balance using a yoga blanket, brick and resistance bands below.
I hope you will give it a go and let me know what you think👇
Finally, this month I am running a workshop on yoga for body balance and core strength. Click here to find out more.