The beauty of asymmetry and how to embrace it
Embrace the beauty of asymmetry. Human beings, by nature, are neither symmetrical nor perfect, so why do we aspire for symmetry? Asymmetry can be not only beautiful but teach us many lessons.
We live in a world where most man-made structures are now symmetrical, balanced and perfectly aligned. We are taught that those who are the most symmetrical, balanced and perfectly aligned are the more “beautiful” and “desirable”. Yet just like Mother Nature, humans are not symmetrical or perfectly aligned.
Looking out the window we can clearly see that Mother Nature is far from symmetrical and creates all sorts of patterns and shapes. No two trees are alike, no roots follow the exact same pattern, and no natural surface is even. Life in all its imperfections is beautiful. Embrace asymmetry!
GET OUTSIDE IN NATURE!
It amazes me that we choose to spend so much time indoors where everything is level, predictable, and structured. It leads to false illusions that the world around us is also level, predictable, and structured. Yet no matter how much structure we try to create in our lives, life never really works out exactly as we expect. It is the ups and downs, curves and edges that really shape our lives. Life is not perfect, we are not perfect, which is just perfect!
Back when I used to run on a daily basis I had lots of problems with my joints. I could never quite figure out why I was having so many problems. Once, I even had a friend follow my run to strictly observe my physical alignment and yet he could find no obvious asymmetry. After spending run after run on hard, cemented, level streets I realised this hard, inflexible surface was what was causing my pain. With every step I took I was pounding and exacerbating the subtle asymmetries of my body. We are asymmetrical, imperfect beings and although all asymmetries are not as obvious as say the Hunchback of Notre Dame, we are not designed to run on hard, symmetrical surfaces.
So I started trail running. Although the surfaces of a rainforest or beachside trail might seem more hazardous than the cement trails of suburbia, what I found was I could run for a lot longer without joint pain. As tree roots, stones, sand, and sticks emerged on my path, my joints were forced to remain flexible. All the smaller little muscles within my body activated as I navigated a path through the terrain. Not only did my runs become less painful but they became more interesting and playful as I was forced to stay present due to the unpredictability of the pathway.
PRACTICE YOGA OUTSIDE
Recently I was at Palm Beach sitting up on the cliffs admiring the beauty of the headland. I decided (as is so often the case in these crazy times of social media) to take a headstand selfie and capture the moment for all the world to see 😉 . Being alone, and with only 10 seconds to get into the pose before the camera took the photo, it was really difficult to get into my headstand. The rock surface was uneven and there were incredibly strong gusts of wind. I looked at the imperfection of my headstand in the photo and thought if only I had a flat surface with no wind how much better my ‘pose’ would look! 🙄
I often practice yoga outdoors (as you will see in most of my yoga videos). Besides the fact that I find nature really calming, there is also a challenging component to practicing outside. Often postures are more difficult because the surfaces are uneven and unpredictable. Often my mind doesn’t want to stay in a posture for long because it is difficult. Yet as B.K.S Iyengar says,
“the pose begins when you want to leave it”.
Practising yoga in asymmetrical environments is challenging but it is often a stronger workout for the mind.
BE LIKE A BLADE OF GRASS
Mother Nature has lots of lessons to teach us. One of the most potent ones which can apply to not only our physical practice but also that of the mind is the need to find a balance of both strength and flexibility. I remember one of my yoga teachers giving us the analogy of a blade of grass in a flood. He said 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 are feeling rigid and stuck it is time to get outside and immerse yourself in nature. Notice how the trees curve their trunks to adapt to the wind, how the roots of the trees pattern themselves creatively amongst the soil, and how the blades of grass sway in the breeze whilst firmly planted in the soil. Perhaps the best lesson yet is to recognise that we are like nature.
LOVE ALL YOUR PERFECT IMPERFECTIONS
We are not perfect and it is our imperfections that make us who we are. Perhaps if we all stopped trying to conform to the idealistic notion of symmetry we would embrace each other more. Perhaps we Ould even learn to love ourselves more, hunchbacks and all! Go ahead, embrace the beauty of asymmetry.