Wednesday, May 08, 2013

the virtues of asymmetry

Photo from here.
When practicing asanas, I'm aware of my body's asymmetry. Whatever pose I can manage easily on one side is often a challenge for the other. My right hip's ligaments and muscles are tighter than the left. I twist easier to the right in Parivrrta Janu Sirsasana than to the left. It's necessary for me to lift and shift the left foot forward in lunges during Surya Namaskar. The disparity is something I have come to live with being a self-taught yogi styling a steel rod from an operation to "correct" scoliosis. (A huge debt of gratitude to Patricia Walden's very best Yoga For Beginners video ~ gotta be 20+ years old now, but still a good guide for the first-time practitioner, in my opinion.)

Symmetry has its place. Symmetry might be necessary for balance and, sometimes, form. Symmetry makes stuff look neat and orderly, well thought out. Symmetry is simple. I often say symmetry is for people who lack imagination. Asymmetry though? Oh my! Now you're talking my kind of fun! Asymmetry requires a little more work. Asymmetry spawns from Chaos and doesn't ask to be put in order. All it seeks is to be accepted on its own terms. Asymmetry requires something deeper than neatness and simplicity (although, you could get a fair dose of simplicity nonetheless) ~ it requires integration. There is an analogy Francesca DeGrandis used to describe integration: a tree growing on rock. The tree doesn't balance its lifestyle to fit the rock's. It doesn't become a rock, but retains its tree-ness. The tree doesn't seek psychotherapy in dealing with the rock and where, as a seed, it was landed to grow. The tree merely integrates what it is with where it is and works from that. The same could be said for yoga practice in any human body (which, by the way, scoliosis or no, is still asymmetrical, by golly) or how life lands one in places unplanned or in a stack of books leaning just right without falling over.

I drive the man I live with nuts about asymmetry. He likes things to match and be balanced. To my mind, matchy-matchy just gets one lost in the crowd, making one nondescript, conformed. Dangerously perfect. Expecting things to be balanced only means that when one thing is taken away, it's out of balance and there's little one can do to rectify the situation except to put the same thing (or something similar) back again. Integration, asymmetry, allows for the shift in fulcrum. The Dance, the Juggling Act, that keeps moving even in its stillness. It's the movement I tend to gravitate toward in yoga, in our home, in life. I am what I am and I'm maintaining my tree-ness growing on this rock though not fully integrated just yet.

1 comment:

Ruth said...

Thoughtful post (they all are, actually).

Jay, the Virgo scientist, loathes symmetry in his surroundings. "Balance" is apparently subjective. Who knew? ;-)

I always marvel at the way trees tenaciously cling to cliff faces. So grounded yet reaching for the stars.