You’ve reached the end of a yoga class. You ‘re just coming out of Savasana. You’ve wriggled your fingers and toes , rolled your head slowly from side to side, hugged your knees into the chest and given your body a full on stretch . Your instructor then asks you to roll to the right and spend a few breaths there before pushing up to seated.
You “ get “ the wriggling, the hugging and the stretching but why are you instructed roll to the right ? And why do pregnant women and some other students often roll to the left? Good questions .
There are 2 aspects to this – the physical answer and the more spiritual, traditional answer .
From a physical perspective rolling to the right means that the heart ( which is on the left side of the body ) is positioned above the other organs so there is less pressure on it . As a result it does not have to work so hard thus keeping you calm and relaxed . This is important if you are all chilled and relaxed after practice with a well and truly opened heart and are basking in the effects of a blissful Savasana .
It also means that it will be easier to breathe through the left nostril ( as it also will be on top ). This activates the Ida nadi – the feminine , calming and cooling energy channel which runs down the left hand side of the body. There are 3 main nadis or energy channels in the subtle body through which “ Prana “ – energy or life force circulates in the same way as blood circulates through the veins and arteries in the gross or physical body . The Pingala nadi is situated on the right side of the body and is the more dynamic , masculine nadi , and the Sushumna nadi which runs centrally between the other 2 following the alignment of the spinal cord .
Pregnant women however are usually advised to roll to the left – and in fact may also spend the whole of Savasana lying on this side . This is because lying in this way lessens pressure on the liver from the uterus and improves blood circulation to the placenta. It also reduces pressure on the vena cava – the vein which carries blood form the uterus back to the heart as the uterus is not lying on it .
Students with high blood pressure may also be recommended to roll to the left to ensure that there is less pressure on the blood vessels returning blood to the heart . It also goes without saying that if you are carrying an injury to your right side then a roll to the left would be more appropriate.
From a more traditional spiritual perspective , in India it is considered more auspicious to enter holy places such as temples right side first with the left hand being reserved for more base activities such as toileting . This is incidentally why the left hand is not traditionally used to eat with .
Rolling to the right also represents facing towards the East - towards the rising sun symbolizing awakening and asking for blessings or grace . Furthermore in many cultures we also hold our right hand out to great people as a gesture of friendship .
So , there is not one specific answer to the questions but rather an intriguing mix of physical spiritual and traditional .