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Resting Leftward: Eastern Wisdom for Pilates Teachers on Body Alignment


Left-side slumber: A step towards embodying the holistic principles of Pilates, even in rest
Embracing tranquility: A Pilates teacher finds harmony in the ancient Eastern practice of sleeping on the left side

Your exploration as a Pilates teacher into the varied realms of Eastern medicine enriches the holistic understanding of body dynamics. The ancient traditions from Indian, Chinese, Tibetan to Thai cultures provide a profound insight into the nuanced differences between the left and right sides of our body. The practice among certain Buddhist monastic traditions to rest on the left side, though unusual to some, opens up a spectrum of health benefits. This knowledge, when intertwined with Pilates teachings, can offer a more harmonised approach towards body wellness and equilibrium, nurturing a deeper connection between the physical and the subtle energies within.


A notable emphasis is on the lymphatic flow, predominantly directed towards the left. The lymphatic system is more active on this side, channeling lymph fluid toward the thoracic duct located on the left. This fluid carries proteins, glucose metabolites, and waste products that are then purified by the lymph nodes before being drained to the left side. Eastern medicine often associates ailments on the body's left side with potential chronic congestion in the lymphatic system.


The body's inherent prioritisation comes into play when congestion occurs. As per Ayurvedic teachings, if the lymphatic system faces congestion, this overburden gradually spreads to the liver and bloodstream, saturating them with toxic substances. The primary manifestations of congestion appear initially on the left side before transitioning to the right.


Feeling lethargic post-meal?

A traditional Indian practice suggests a brief repose on your left side after meals, limiting it to a ten-minute duration. This is distinct from the longer evening nap, which typically extends beyond twenty minutes.

Anatomically, our stomach and pancreas are aligned towards the left. When you recline on your left side, they naturally hang in a way that promotes optimal digestion. Food navigates naturally through the stomach, while pancreatic enzymes are released gradually, ensuring a smooth digestive process.

Moreover, as you lay on your left side, your liver and gallbladder are positioned comfortably from the right, enabling them to seamlessly secrete digestive enzymes into the tract, aiding in fat emulsification and neutralizing stomach acids. This positioning shortens the digestive cycle, leaving you revitalized and not sluggish.


Sleeping Serenity from the Left:

Optimal Waste Elimination:

Our body's small intestine directs toxins through the ileocecal valve (VIC) on the right, leading into the large intestine. As you sleep on your left side, gravity aids in moving the waste materials from the small to the large intestine, facilitating easier elimination come morning.

Enhanced Cardiac Function:

With over 80% of our heart situated on the left, sleeping on this side facilitates gravity-driven lymph drainage towards the heart, reducing its workload during rest. The aorta, emerging from the heart's top part, arches left before descending, thus, sleeping on the left eases the heart’s pumping action, ensuring blood flows effortlessly through the descending aorta.


Furthermore, as you recline on the left, the intestines shift away from the cava vein responsible for returning blood to the heart, further easing cardiac function.

The spleen, part of the lymphatic system and located on the left, acts as a large lymph node, filtering both lymph and blood. Resting on the left aids in the easier return of fluids, powered by gravity, enriching the purification process of the body.


The lymphatic system relies on muscular movement and contractions for fluid drainage, independent of heart pumping. Aiding the lymphatic flow toward the heart and pelvis using gravity is a simplistic method to enhance body purification.


While scientific protocols may not explicitly support sleeping on the left, understanding the ancestral wisdom, interlaced with modern anatomy insights, elucidates the rationale behind the Eastern practice of sleeping in a specific manner. For Pilates teachers, integrating this ancient knowledge with Pilates principles could unveil new dimensions in nurturing bodily harmony and well-being among practitioners.

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