Balance Is Not Symmetry: Where are Your Organs?

In our last post, we quickly explained what brain processes occur during balance postures. To fitness professionals like us, understanding neuroscience is not only fascinating but also helpful in assisting our clients to overcome challenges with movement including balancing. This information can definitely help boost your yoga practice!  But you should also incorporate another bit of information to bring your practice to the next level:  Organ Placement.

Organ Placement is not often included in the dialogue about improving performance in yoga postures. Big Mistake!  It may not seem obvious at first, but for us (and those of us who are interested in the “fringe” somatics), organ participation is obviously pertinent in every aspect of movement/fitness. We all have moments of getting caught up in the popular definition of balance as involving or connoting symmetry. But this visually oriented concept  is more of an imposed aesthetic or cultural ideal.

Let’s make this point very clear and put it into the context of asana. Tree Pose, Vrksasana, is a one-legged balance posture. Usually when we practice this asana, we try to experience this posture in the same way on both sides (we try to “feel” or balance on the left leg in the same way we did on the right). This seems appropriate considering that the skeletal body superficially does appear to be symmetrical. But upon examining the rib cage more closely, we can see how the asymmetrical arrangement of the internal organs affects the skeletal shape. Because of the placement of the liver, the right side of the rib cage may be rounded out more than the left. Don’t believe us? Go to the mirror and check it out. Touch both sides of the rib cage and see how they feel.

Each individual’s experience/performance in Vrksanana, on the left and right side, is affected by the placement of our organs. Your brain integrates information about the movement of the organs and the musculoskeletal system in order to make micro adjustments necessary to help you maintain your balance while standing, walking, lifting weights or twisting yourself into pretzel-like shapes in accordance with every breath you take. You are just not usually consciously aware of your brain/body on this micro level of functioning, which is not necessarily bad.  Being conscious of every process in our bodies, big and small, would be time consuming and exhausting.  Yet tiny processes, like the one described above, happen all the time.

Every so often you can take time to see if you can deepen your sensory experience by trying to get in touch with a part of body that often goes untapped in a conscious way. Can you feel your lungs move with every breath? Can you feel the movement of your diaphragm press against the liver, stomach, spleen, intestines and so on (maybe not sense the organs individually, but feel the shift of movement inside your abdominal cavity when you breathe)? Can you incorporate their movement as you flow through your next practice? If not, you should try it. Stop ignoring your organs! Making them a conscious part of your yoga practice could add insight and benefit you. With their asymmetrical placement inside your body, they have just as much to do with your sense of balance as anything else you can think of.

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