In my opinion, side stretches are under-rated in yoga! The power of a side stretch should not be overlooked or forgotten.
Side stretches emphasize length through the spine and they give the ‘squishy’ spinal disc between each vertebrae a deep squeeze which helps keep them spacious and healthy.
Side stretches help keep the spine young and mobile. They create a gentle kidney squeeze that helps with detoxification.
Side stretches are a lovely addition to a pre-natal yoga class too, because they help make space for the baby and can relieve discomfort under the ribs for moms.
My personal experience of side stretches has been a challenging one. Learning to stretch sideways without tipping forward or backwards is often the biggest (unconscious) occurrence in these postures. The best advice I was given for a proper stretch was “Imagine you are in between two panes of glass, one in front of you and one behind you, and they are holding you in place so you can ONLY move side to side.” That image has helped me become aware of the proper alignment for side stretching.
Side stretches leave me feeling light and spacious through my upper body, and I highly recommend including them in your yoga practice!
Even “Yoga Journal” does not have a section for me to refer you to for side stretches (and there’s many), but I did find this one Gate Pose and it is one of my faves! Some other side stretches include triangle poses, crescent moon, seated side stretch and wide-legged seated side-stretch.
Check out our last four articles in our ‘six movements of the spine’ series:
- Youth Resides In The Spine (Introduction to the six movements)
- Wake Up! (Elongation)
- Here Comes The Sun (back bends)
- The Magic Of Moon Energy (forward bends)
Always check with your doctor before starting any new exercise routine. People with a herniated disc should move extra cautiously and be guided by an experienced teacher.
Photo Credit Kaitlin Appleman!