Many years ago, I was a swimmer, I swam in high school for my team and I really enjoyed it, but I wasn’t all that good. I didn’t quite get that competitive swimming was different than recreational swimming when I first joined the team, but nonetheless, I did my best. My best was not awesome. For anyone in the know, my breast stroke time was as fast as my freestyle (this might be good if either of my times were fast, but I had an average breast stroke time and a horrible freestyle time). My coach wanted to help me get better at my freestyle technique, so he videotaped me swimming (no easy feat in the early 90s) and it was rough. I was all over the place and really awkwardly uneven. My coach had been trying to convince me that I should breathe every 3 strokes in an attempt to even out my stroke, my haphazard movement, but it wasn’t until I saw that video that I knew I needed to do something to change how I went about swimming freestyle. When I started to breath every 3 strokes, it felt really uncomfortable, but the next time I was videotaped, by stroke looked a million times better than it did before. By breathing every 3 strokes, my body had evened itself out and I had a better balance as I swam.
A few years ago, I had a similar experience when David Robson came to town for a workshop. David has always been one of my favorite guest teachers as I always walk away from his workshops with something to apply to my practice (don't be surprised when he pops into this series again--he'll be back, I'm sure). One of the first times he was in Phoenix, he talked about jumping through after each pose and he mentioned that you should switch which leg comes through first depending on what side of the pose you are doing. When I first started to do this, it was amazing to see how uneven I was. I could jump through with my right foot in front relatively well, but the left side was a hot mess. Happily, I was still figuring out the whole jumping through thing, so the messiness, while obvious to me, probably just looked like my normal messiness to anyone else, so I just persevered.
The other day, I heard my teacher talking to another student about how jumping through in tirang mukha eka pada paschimottanasana one side is easier because it is the side she usually uses to jump through. It was then that I realized how valuable this tip has been in my practice. Because I do my best to switch which leg come through first, I'm much more balanced and although I do find one side to be generally a little easier, it is not a drastic difference and sometimes my "bad" side feels stronger and easier than the "good" side.
So, one of my favorite tips from the wonderful David Robson is to switch which foot comes through first when you are jumping through. I tend to think about putting whichever leg bends first in a pose on top or in front when I jump through, although I don't think it matters much as long as you switch it up for each side of a pose. It is just another way to balance out the practice in a relatively simple way. I definitely notice a difference when I am not thinking about it and I let my right foot always go through first. Ultimately, I am thankful I got this tip when I did as it has positively impacted my practice over the last few years. It is so great when you get the right tip from the right teacher at the right time.
Try it out and let me know what you think (give it some time). I hope it helps your practice like it did mine!