Harmony In Asymmetry


An idea taught to yoga students- strive for symmetry and equivalence on both sides of the body. As a result, many yoga students view any asymmetries in their bodies as inherently problematic. Worrying about bodily asymmetries isn’t just limited to the realm of yoga. People believe the most symmetrical, balanced, and perfectly aligned tend to be more beautiful, acceptable and, desirable.

Why do we aspire for symmetry?

Most structures made by man tend to be symmetrical, balanced, and perfectly aligned. It leads to false illusions that the world around also tends to be levelled, predictable, and structured. No matter how much structure we try to create in our lives, life never really works out exactly as we expect.

The ups and downs, curves, and edges shape our lives.

Asymmetrical poses by definition turn out to be more challenging than their symmetrical counterparts and, they teach us to embrace the beauty of the asymmetry of our bodies.

Mother Nature – far from symmetry.

Nature creates all sorts of patterns and shapes. Do you ever see two trees alike? No roots follow the same path, and we don’t find a natural surface even. Similarly, just like nature, human beings also tend to be asymmetrical and not perfectly aligned.

In the natural world, all possess a quality of balance, but not symmetry. Think of a tree- a perfectly balanced structure that maintains its upright posture. But if we draw an imaginary line down its centre, it’s clear that it is not symmetrical on both sides. There exists a natural variability among trees. Just like there exists a natural variability in the human body.

Instead of emphasizing bodily symmetry, a more helpful concept would be to focus on balance. It is tempting to conflate these two definitions. But where symmetry is the quality of sameness on both sides, balance is about the steadiness of position. A tree gets adapted to its environment and does not fall over.

Nature teaches us a balance of strength and flexibility.

We should be like a blade of grass, firmly cemented into the earth yet flexible enough to bend backwards when the flood comes. To go with the flow and then bounce back up after the flood.

So perhaps if you feel rigid and stuck, high time to get outside and immerse yourself in nature. The trees curve their trunks to adapt to the wind. The roots of the trees pattern themselves creatively amongst the soil. The blades of grass sway in the breeze but remain rooted in the earth.

We must recognize the fact that we need to be like nature. Practising yoga in asymmetrical environments proves to be challenging because the surfaces tend to be uneven and unpredictable. The poses become more playful as we stay more focused due to the unpredictability of the pathway.

Although the idea of symmetry seems intuitively valuable in yoga, in reality, no evidence exists to support this common belief. Countless scientific studies have drawn no link between body asymmetries and pain, dysfunction, and poor health. This realization may seem surprising and antithetical to most of us. A look at the inner structure of our body helps us begin to recalibrate our views on symmetry.

Asymmetrical on the inside.

Yoga- a breath-centered practice. But do we pause to appreciate our internal body? Our two lungs tend to be innately different from one another in both size and structure. Our right lung has three lobes and, our left lung has only two. The left lung tends to be smaller than the right lung to make space for our heart. To the left of the centre is the heart and, to the right of the centre is the liver.

Asymmetrical LungsThe non-symmetrical placement of our heart and liver makes the diaphragm (the muscle of respiration) also asymmetrical! The right side of the diaphragm sits higher, while the left side sits somewhat lower. Such asymmetry builds our internal structure. Is it logical to assume that asymmetries in how our body looks or moves from the outside are inherently problematic?

Life in all its imperfections is beautiful. Embrace the beauty of asymmetry!

If we all stop trying to conform to the ideal notion of symmetry, we would embrace each other more.

Durvasasana (दुर्वासासन)

About Me

Author: Dr. Roopal Patel

I’m Dr. Roopal Patel from Mumbai. A Dentist, Mrs. India 2018 runner-up, an International Yoga Instructor, the Chief Administrator of a Yoga Institute, a fitness model, and an avid traveler at heart with an insatiable and burning desire to explore the world, having set foot in 100 countries across 6 continents as of now. An adventurous alpha mother and a spunky globetrotter who has a claim to fame: ‘Atlas in my hands, adventure in my eyes, and never-ending wanderlust in my veins.’ My aim in life is to inspire and bring a smile to every life I touch. I live by the phrase "Carpe Diem" and firmly believe in यद् भावं तद् भवति ।