Yoga 101 – Why do we (usually) roll to our right side at the end of class?

You may have noticed that at the end of a yoga class, after Savasana, the teacher usually guides you to roll over to your right side before coming up to sit. Students have asked me why we roll to the right side and not the left? The short answer is: because you come to a yoga class to relax. And here is the long answer:

There is a lot more to the fact that our body can be divided into a right and a left side. Energetically the right and the left side of the body have different qualities, and by emphasizing one side over the other we can actually affect how we feel.

In traditional Indian and Chinese medicine and spiritual science, including Yoga (together hereinafter referred to as: “Yoga”), our being is considered to consist of much more than just our physical – and visible – body. According to Yoga, our body contains over 72.000 nadis, or energy channels, through which our Prana, or Life Force, flows. These nadis cannot be seen with the physical eye, but research suggests that these nadis do exist. Simply put, the practice of yoga aims at releasing (energetic) blockages from the nadis allowing Prana to flow unobstructed. There are three “main” nadis in the body: the Sushumna in the center of the spine, the Ida nadi on the left side, and the Pingala nadi on the right side. Depending on the tradition, the Ida and Pingala nadi are either depicted as running on either side of the central channel, or as winding around the SushumnaWhen I practice, I “see” the right and the left channel parallel to the central channel, as shown below.

The Ida and the Pingala nadi are associated with specific attributes. The left side of the body, or more precisely: the Ida nadi, is related to our femininity. The feminine side of the body has cooling, calming, Yin energy. It is connected to the moon. The left side of our brain conducts our creativity. On the other hand, the right side of the body, or more precisely: the Pingala nadi, is related to our masculinity. The masculine side of the body has heating, energizing, Yang energy. It is connected to the sun. The right side of our brain is analytical. The Sanskrit word for sun is Ha, and that for moon is Tha. Hence Hatha Yoga: the balancing of the right and the left side of our being.

The practical application of the above is simple, yet has profound effect. When you feel sluggish, tired and without energy, you can stimulate the right side of your body to energize yourself. An example of how to do this is to gently close of your left nostril and only breathe through your right. Feeling overheated, irritated and spun-up? Breathe a couple of minutes only through your left nostril. You will be surprised how well it works*.

So now how does this all relate to the end of a yoga class? When you come out of Savanna and roll to your  right side, your left nostril is on top. As this will emphasize the flow of breath through your left nostril, lying on your right side has a calming effect. It is because we generally want to calm the body and the mind when we practice yoga, that we end the class in this position. That doesn’t mean this is the only (right) way to do come out of Savasana. If you need some stimulation and extra energy at the end of your practice, it is advised to roll to your left side to stimulate breathing through your right nostril.

Knowing this, you can customize your yoga practice and make it just right all the way till the end of class. Namaste.

Interested in gaining more insight into yoga? Marije offers 75-hour Yin Yoga teacher trainings that are open to anyone interested in deepening their understanding and practice of yoga. Read more

*There are many more (breathing) practices to either stimulate or calm your being, but those go beyond the scope of this blog.