Let’s Talk About Asymmetry!

I listened to a fascinating podcast about symmetry a while back and what really captured my imagination was the idea that scientifically, most of what we define as “symmetry” that we observe in the natural world is really “bilateral symmetry” or “mirror symmetry”.


Of course, we can all usually identify “rotational symmetry” too –

NGC-1365-the-Great-Barred-Spiral-by-Martin-Pugh     IMG_1776


Our bodies can appear bilaterally symmetrical, and are designed to move in a rotational symmetry, but most of us are hardly “symmetrical” at all!


Here is my back.


In both photos, I am doing the same exercise but on the right, my right arm is in external rotation and extended while my left is internally rotated and flexed.  In the photo on the left, the reverse is happening.




Decades of asymmetrical use patterns create these types of physical asymmetry.  In this case, I am right handed and muscles on my right (like the trapezious and levator scapulae) have, over time, adapted to holding tension, creating less mobility.  My right internal oblique/latissimus is weaker (got a little scoliosis there) and my right scapula doesn’t widen partly because my right serratus is not helping do its part.

Meanwhile, my left scapula is just hangin’ out in the breeze…bla bla bla.


So what shall I do?  Do I need to be symmetrical?  Is appearance important?  Am I in pain?  Is this condition creating ongoing dysfunction in my life?


In Japan, there is wabi-sabi: the art of appreciating what is imperfect.  The Navajo, among other peoples, left one imperfection in their art because only God creates perfection.  A deeper meaning within both of these practices was to create a “pathway” in the art (the Navajo called it a “spiritline”) through which Spirit could travel in and out of the material world.


You know where I am going with this.


In GYROTONIC exercise, widening the scapulae, then “plugging in” the humeri so the pecs flatten, and then spiraling the arms and connecting the armpit prepares our upper body for mobilizing the thoracic spine through the arch.  Here is the result for this alignment adjustment and connecting sequence for re-educating the shoulder girdle:



While feeling gratitude for my imperfections, I acknowledge it is my very asymmetry which calls me to find more understanding within myself, my own “spiritline”.   As I practice isolating and mobilizing my right humerus and scapulae, doing many rhomboid push ups, releasing the pectoralis on both sides, finding places to hang and swing by my hands to rebuild upper body strength, I am traveling that pathway between the material and the ethereal – because it is what I like to do and it makes my body feel really, really good.