You are not alone

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Wise advice for yogis from Dr Seuss there (courtesy of David Kyle’s instagram). But if you’ve ever become completely confounded in twists – or fallen over because you’ve picked up the wrong foot in a complicated transition (hiii), don’t stress – around 20% of the population, according to some guesses, struggle to tell the difference between their left and their right.

Scientists are still unsure as to why this is, and mostly it’s a problem easily solved by making an L shape with the fingers and thumb of your left hand. Embarrassingly, I didn’t realise that was possible until a few years further into secondary school than I’d care to admit but it’s a trick that’s saved my face on many many occasions. There’s only so much that can go wrong in yoga though and normally I have very forgiving students but this could be a pretty serious problem if, say, you were a surgeon and you were to perform surgery on the wrong site. More of which on this NYMag article.

It turns out, though, that while we don’t know why so high a proportion of the population struggle with their rights and lefts, we do know one of the things that makes our judgment worse – and that’s distraction. I’m not convinced I needed a scientific study (published this month in Medical Education no less) to tell me that – although what I am intrigued by is that apparently medical students think that they have better left/right awareness than they actually do – most of my yoga students are convinced of the absolute opposite. Either med students are more confident in their skills than yogis (possible, although what about the overlap?!) or we’re all being falsely modest.

In the interests of svadyaya (yogic self-study), then, I urge you to take this test to discover how good you really are at telling the difference. It’s slightly addictive (and totally SWF, don’t worry!) – bring your results to class and we’ll test you on some twists!

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