Yoga and the Art of Archery

yogaI tried archery for the first time this weekend and had to shoot right handed even though I am a lefty because that was the only type of bow available. The endless work I have put into building my weaker right side in my yoga practice in order to work in a balance manner seemed to pay off as I didn’t have much of a problem. No one is truly ambidextrous but I feel that my yoga practice has enabled me to do things moderately well from both sides.

Left-handed people have long been considered children of the devil, or were at least for a good long time. My mother’s eastern European relatives wanted her to break me of the habit in any way that she could and the bible is littered with negative references to left handed people. The Latin word for “left” is sinister. The French word for “left” is gauche, meaning awkward or tactless. The English word left comes from the Old English left, meaning weak. So there you have me.

Though, in truth, weakness has never been my issue. My father who never did any exercise his whole life had a natural reserve of strength even though it didn’t serve him when his body began to fail because without muscle he fell apart. I never understood what it meant to be naturally strong, I just always was.

I was a mediocre athlete so was never in any program that had me exercising and building strength. Never big on sit-ups or pushups, I couldn’t climb the ropes in gym in my dreams. The jobs I held during my youth of wandering were mostly cater-waitering and carpentry which required a measure of strength to lug things here and there.

The first real inclination of my natural strength came from an ex-girlfriend who reported back that her hunky new boyfriend was far weaker than me even though he had muscles to spare while my body has never, and still doesn’t, know what a muscle looks like.

We moved repeatedly and since she was tiny and had exercised as much as me,  I did the bulk of the work and had no problem carrying couches up and down stairs by myself. When it came time to move with the new boyfriend— that simply didn’t happen. I can’t say that I didn’t love that fact.

Fast forward a number of years to yoga for which I had a natural inclination. I was able to do some cool tricks fairly quickly. But I was seriously imbalanced. At one point I learned to go up into wheel by going onto the top of my head first before extending up and soon realized that I did everything with my left and basically collapsed through my right. I have worked long and hard to minimize that imbalance and I feel that it paid off this weekend when I shot archery from the right side.

Wow was archery cool and powerful. Everything about it was deep—the stance; the drawing of the string; watching the arrow fly; improving with each passing shot. It was profoundly empowering.

And were it not for yoga I wouldn’t have been able to do it from the right side. My life is a search for balance and my work is guiding people on a similar search. Shooting the bow and arrow over the weekend reinforced the power and efficacy of both yoga and strength. I highly recommend students take a step back and analyze their sidedness in an effort to bring better balance to the body.

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