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leg to stand on

JustinTime2010-07-04 12:16:09 +0000 #1
I have been wondering whether there is a right - or left - way of doing standing postures, particularly balances? Does it matter with which leg one starts, to which side one orients onself? Does left/right handedness determine it or just what one feels most comfartable with? Should one stick to the same sequence or try to alternate the sequence for balance's sake?

I am asking because I have noticed that it is easier to start with one side rather than the other.

Anyone know?
suryadaya2010-07-04 12:26:54 +0000 #2
My two... err... Twenty Cents

I can't speak for any specific lineage of teaching, but most of the people I know that teach start with the right leg first - I've always assumed it was easier for the general student to have some uniformity between teachings and that most basic teachers pick it because it is less confusing. From what I've heard, most right handed / right eye dominant people lead with their right hand and foot, and cross their right leg over their left when they sit. I only really teach children right now, and I always do the right side first just to be consistent.

If you're really attempting to train balance, it *could* be beneficial to attempt starting out with the left side once or twice, just to see what type of awareness it brings. I'm right handed but my left eye is dominant (which means when I shoot in archery, I shoot left handed better than right because I focus with that eye). When I found this out in an archery class, I immediately took this awareness into my practice and realized that in poses which require balance on a leading leg, I am more stable on the left (all forms of virabhadrasana, trikonasana etc). Its interesting to note that I feel I balance *better* on the right in Vrksasana BUT I feel like it requires more energy, the use of more muscles. It could just be that my balance isn't very good, and I'd be better overall if I used my left. Who knows? Not me!

Going on, now that I know all of this, I tend to switch between one side and the other on different days, depending on if I want to make my practice more challenging or stabilizing (only my home practice, not with the children). I was told by someone once that I should pick one side to practice consistently but my archery teacher told me that as well and I feel just as confident shooting with with my left side as I do on my right side (with the right eye closed). After that initial learning period I can't really see the difference, (in archery as well as in yoga, I find the greatest challenge to be controlling the breath and the mind). The teacher who told me this used to make a living training competitive archers to go to the Olympics, so I'm sure that if this was my path then I would definitely do what he said. haha.

If I had a guru who told me that practicing on the right side was what I needed to do, then I would trust them; but right now the most wonderful teacher I have has been dead since 1902 and really didn't have a lot to say about asana other than to relax and sit up straight. I feel as though I can take a certain amount of liberty.
Pandara2010-07-04 12:59:57 +0000 #3

I don't know of any fixed rule that says this or that side first. My own teacher used to say start with the easier side, I have noticed in myself and in others that one of the two sides are always more comfortable than the other.

In my own classes for the sake of consistency and because 100% of the people are right handed, I always start with the opposite side, the left. We are so used to use our dominant side for everything, when we start with the non-dominant side is gives the mind also some yoga to do, because it has to use the other side all of a sudden.

Just for the sake of interest here are the functions of left and right brain and what each side do and regulates (more or less):


Uses logic, detail oriented, facts rule, words and language, present and past, math and science, can comprehend, knowing, acknowledges, order/pattern perception, knows object name, reality based, forms strategies, practical and safe.


Uses feeling, "big picture" oriented, imagination rules, symbols and images, present and future, philosophy & religion, can "get it" (i.e. meaning), believes, appreciates, spatial perception, knows object function, fantasy based, presents possibilities, impetuous, risk taking.
JustinTime2010-07-04 13:06:59 +0000 #4
Thank you, Suryadaya, for your 'penny's worth'. I agree with you that a certain amount of liberty is definitely a good thing, certainly at my age! If not now, when?

When I broke my right wrist 11 years ago in November - I had this contraption with metal rods etc. - I had to stay with my very newly married daughter because I only had coal fires in my own house, and being right-handed this posed to be a bit of a challenge. Nevertheless, I really didn't want to stay any longer than necessary, and after a week I asked my (then-) son-in-law to start the fire for me, and I moved back home. With a very concentrated mind I managed to train myself to do with my left hand what previously my right hand had to accomplish. I looked upon it as a kind of puzzle, which helped. Living by myself I also could take as much time as I needed. I did drop the grill pan, and the handle broke irretrievably (now I have to use oven gloves every time to keep my hand from burning). Nevertheless, I was astounded and pleased how quickly I managed to swap sides.

Needless to say, with full recovery I am as ever back to my old right-handed way. In my case that is sensible as I have a very dodgy left elbow.

Pandara, thank you too for your very detailed and illuminating response.

As for Left Brain/ Right Brain funktions, I think mine must be thoroughly jumbled up because I am still confused: when you say that you start with your right-handed people on the opposite side, do you mean , for example, you stand on you left leg first in balances? As far as balances are concerned this is what I tend to do because otherwise I find it difficult to balance on either side. And that is the reason why I posed the question in the first place. Perhaps I should try harder after all and practise to start with the other side first?

I think it likely that I will ask a lot of possibly rather silly questions as I decided not to be part of our local group any more after the summer break. The teacher does not help me enough, nor anyone else for that matter, but the rest of the group are a lot younger than I am and therefore less prone to do damage to themselves.Hopefully!

Perhaps I should start a thead just for OAPs, or am I the only one here?
Pandara2010-07-04 13:08:32 +0000 #5

Originally Posted by JustinTime

When I broke my right wrist 11 years ago in November...

My dear friend, while reading this I felt as if I was reading my own past here, I broke my wrist also 11 years ago, also right one, just in September and not November and I also had to wear this contraption for weeks and after that the bone still hasn't healed so they placed it in plaster, which was most unconfortable, but it helped me to get in touch with my left side or feminine side as left represents our feminine aspect. I am sure my initial clumsiness caused a lot of giggles on the other side!


Originally Posted by JustinTime

...when you say that you start with your right-handed people on the opposite side, do you mean, for example, you stand on you left leg first in balances?

Yes, this is exactly what I mean. Also in stretches for example I will first stretch over to the left and then do the right, always the opposite of what is dominant. when ever there is a left or right side to an asana, I will start with the opposite to the dominant of the yogi.
justwannabe2010-07-04 14:31:45 +0000 #6
i have done a bit of reading and i dont know much about right or left leg starting first but i do believe that supposedly in exercised such as spinal twists starting a certain way helps elimination and anther way hinders it,if you go the opposte way first you encourage the digestive system to back up, and if you go the flowing way first you encourage it to move forward and eliminate, you may want to inquire deeper if you feel it necessary to get to the understanding of the subtle details.

good luck

i am love, i am peace, i am joy

your brother

Pandara2010-07-04 13:28:34 +0000 #7
Hi Neil,

thanks for pointing this out, will read up on it, can't remember that I have encountered this in all my reading on yoga asanas over the years, perhaps I have missed it and will research it a bit.
Hubert2010-07-04 14:20:18 +0000 #8
My school taught me to start always with the left. In fact, the focus and the expereince should be sensibly different for example in doing Garudasana (eagle pose). While both ways, ajna chakra is "energized", there are many ways to experience a chakra, and these experiences are different.

The reason of starting withy the left side was explained to me in terms of yin and yang, most people being overly yin, it makes sense to start the balancing work with focus on the yin side of the body. This way you give your best where it is needed most.

The differences are only perceptibe on higher levels, though. Feel free to share you expereinces, and discuss.

PS. I realized now that as a beginner yogi, having a "wrong" mental picture of what chakras are or should be, I was looking for the wrong expereinces. I was looking into the physiological processes, while chakras are "soul constructs". Forgive the terminology ... but really, I know, that no terminology is there good enough, anyway.



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