Someone asked me this question the other day after class. And I know I should know the answer, because I’ve asked myself the same question too, when I first started yoga.
But my mind went black and I just said "I can’t remember, but I believe it has to do something with the organs of the body." Eek! :) But I did thank him and said I’ll definitely find out the answer for him. (and for me.)
Disclaimer: Yoga teachers don’t know absolutely everything. We learn everyday from our students, especially when they ask awesome questions like this. :D
And I did, and found not one but several answers, so here we go:
There is the Physiological answer:
The organ story was partially right. It is said that since the heart is on the left side of the body, rolling over the right side lessens the pressure on it so we can keep the “calmness” of the body/heart post-savasana.
So what they are saying is that if you roll towards the left, it puts a teeny bit of pressure on your heart and that you’ll be pumping more blood.
I think that you can take this bit with a pinch of salt. I mean you are just going to take a couple breaths on the left, or maybe less. And that would not cause much stress on the heart, right?
But that did give me food for thought - I am definitely going to be mindful about NOT sleeping on my left side tonight, so that I may be able to fall right into lalaland. And when I wake up, I will make a conscious effort to roll to the left for “ideal” blood circulation. Why not?
We also have the spiritual answer:
In India (and since yoga traditionally came from India), the right side is considered as auspicious. It also represents the east and so rolling to the right or the rising sun is symbolic of asking for blessings of grace and bliss.
Sounds great! I am a superstitious Asian girl, and I am "pantang"(taboo) about some stuff. I mean I do not want to offend any ghosts or spirits, so yes I am a believer. Plus it's all about respecting another country/religion/race’s beliefs.
Some believe that the sympathetic (active) nervous system is thought to be associated with the right side of the body, and the theory is that by rolling to the right, the meridians associated with the sympathetic nervous system helps stimulate wakefulness when coming out of Savasana.
And according to traditional indian medicine and TCM, lying on the right opens up the left nostril, the left representing the cool Yin feminine side. So the corresponding opening of the cooling channel would keep the body in a state of calmness which gives a nice balance of energy to the body.
Hmm, definitely something to explore further because when I did my Yin teacher training, we had a brief lecture on meridian points and the nervous system - however there was too little time to delve into it. Honestly, I do “feel” energies shift in my body - have you ever had a foot reflexology before? May not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I am amazed how each and every sensation on your teeny foot will match to different parts of your body.
Reading about these little nuggets of information makes me question my practice and my teachings though.
Why WE do the things We do
I roll to the right - because it’s comfortable and I’m used to it. I have been taught that way and it became a ritual for most yoga classes.
WHY not roll to the left? Sure can do. I do believe in the subtle energies within the body, and sometimes we should not go against nature, the way our body was meant to live.
So now BIG QUESTION is: How do I explain all this in one sentence without having my audiences' eyes glaze off during my “speech”.
After thinking long and hard, the next time, someone ask me this question, I will say this -
For practical reasons, we all roll in the same direction so we don’t bump into each other. But if you believe in the energetics of life, rolling to your right keeps the body in its state of calmness as it comes to a sitting position. (BECAUSE it keeps pressure of your heart PLUS it allows the cooling Yin energy to flow smoothly).
As a teacher, I’ll keep in mind, that if I want to give my class extra yang energy, I will get them to roll over to right side, especially for my morning classes, and my yin students.
Note To my students -
Do ask questions, no matter how silly they are. That is the best way to learn and to better yourself and your practice. So come see me after class, or if you are shy, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
See you in class!