Increase flexibility in your side muscles with these yoga poses.
In yoga, side-stretching poses may often be ignored, or may not be very popular. However, every yogi should note the benefits of increasing the flexibility in the side muscles and try to incorporate some side-stretching poses into their routine. Side bending is not a very common motion in our everyday movements, which means we could all stand to increase flexibility in this area. Plus, these types of yoga poses can also improve your breathing capacity and relieve lower back pain.
Try the four yoga poses below. They’re a great way to introduce side bends into your daily yoga sequence.
By Kathryn Budig
Standing Side Bend
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lift your lower belly as you release your tailbone to keep your pelvis neutral. Extend both of your arms up overhead with your palms facing each other. Clasp your right wrist with your left hand apply gentle pressure pulling your arm toward the left while keeping your shoulder in the socket in external rotation. Shift your left ribcage toward your right to broaden the area (imagine you ribs are like a fan being opened). Gaze down and take 8 breaths. Repeat on the second side.
Begin in Warrior II with front heel-to-back arch alignment. Keep your right knee stacking over your heel and pressure in the pinky edge of your left foot to wake up your arch. Lightly dust your left hand down the back seam of your leg (you should be able to lift this hand at any given moment). Fan your right ribs open while keeping the lower belly active. Offer your left ribs toward the right ribs to prevent collapsing into your bottom side. Externally rotate your top arm and sweep it up and back to complete the pose. Gaze up under the arm or down at the ground to relax your neck. Take 8 full breaths and then continue to the second side.
Start on both knees. Extend your left leg directly out to the side, so that your leg is straight, toes point forward, and your foot is in line with your knee. Press into the pinky edge of your left foot (think of the same actions in the back leg as Reverse Warrior). You might want to pivot your right shin and foot in toward the center just a pinch to stabilize your balance. Trickle your left hand down your leg (it can rest on your thigh or outer shin, just not the knee) as you sweep your right arm up, externally rotate, and extend your bicep over your right ear. Gaze up or down at the ground. Repeat the actions of the ribs as seen in the first two variations. Take 8 breaths and switch sides.
Revolved Bound Gate Pose
Sit on the ground with your legs open in a wide V shape. Bend your right knee and place the sole of your foot flat on the ground with your toes spinning out to a 45-degree angle. Lean your left side toward your left leg, aiming your shoulder toward your thigh. Reach your left hand over to grab your right ankle as you take your right arm up, externally rotate, and clasp the outer edge of your left foot. Use this grip combined with a gentle press of your left shoulder into your left thigh to revolve your chest open. Gaze up or look down for 8 breaths. Switch sides.
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All images courtesy of Kathryn Budig.