Something I hear from many of my students about getting wiser, older, growing young (choose your description) is that they lose connection and length with their side bodies. Specifically they feel they are getting shorter in the middle! Well, this does happen.
In addition to aging, the amount of time we spend sitting (driving, working on computers, watching TV etc.) also contributes to the shortening of our middles. And, if you are already short-waisted, that’s one more box you can check!
In addition to always working on standing tall (reaching through the crown of your head and down through your feet) it is also a good idea to bend your sides! (If you missed last weeks blog on bending forward and back, check it out here)
Side bending can help us feel taller and bring balance to the left and right sides of the body. It can also give us a great deal of information about how our left side is doing/feeling versus our right side. It can lengthen the abdominal muscles, side hip muscles and increase spinal flexibility. In addition, it is also a strengthening and lengthening movement for your intercostal muscles (the muscles between your ribs). Your intercostal muscles also help with inspiration (breathing in) and expiration (breathing out). If they are tight, you might not be breathing as well as you could.
One other muscle to note that side-bending involves is the Quadratus Lumborum (QL). This is a short fat muscle that attaches on the top of your pelvis (iliac crest) and along your lumbar vertebrae to your lowest ribs on both sides of the body. It is very deep muscle. Its job is to pull your bottom rib toward the top of your pelvis.
Try this now…sit tall. Bring your thumb to your lowest rib and middle finger to the top of your pelvis. Bend to the side, just to bring your fingers toward one another. Your QL on your hand side is contracting and pulling you over. Your QL on the other side is extending or lengthening.
Here are two side bending movements to try. The one in the chair is also a slight rotation of your spine.
- Start standing tall in Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
- Make a soft fist with your right hand, inhale and pull your hand up your side to your underarm while bending to the left, sliding the opposite hand down your leg
- Exhale come back to center
- Repeat on other side
- Continue moving side-to-side 6-10 times. You can play with the speed as it becomes comfortable
- Inhale both arms up over head
- Exhale and release your right hand to your left knees; bend to your right
- Repeat on the other side
- Move side to side 6-10 times, following your breath
If you want a downloadable copy of this handout click here.
Next week we’ll conclude this series with Twisting and Circling…check back!