Most of the moves we make in our daily lives tend to involve bending forward; sometimes we twist round, and occasionally we move into a backbend. Unless we engage regularly in sports and activities like gardening (and perhaps housework!) we are far less likely to stretch and work the sides of the body, too.
That’s one main reason to practise yoga - to explore the entire range of human movement in order to maintain and improve flexibility and work the many different muscle groups in the body.
Many yoga postures involve side bending, including triangle, extended side angle, and revolved head to knee pose, which we practised in class this week. These all involve contracting/working the major muscles on one side of the body while stretching out the muscles on the other (top) side.
Gymnasts, swimmers, and body-builders may be some of the fittest people around – but in a yoga class can be challenged by tightness or restriction doing these side-body stretching postures. This can also apply to you and me if we are stuck in a habitual pattern - carrying a heavy bag on one side of body, for example – we may find it harder to bend on one side than the other, especially if lifting an arm overhead.
All in all, side bending is good for us. But these postures must be practised carefully, as they involve both deep stretching, and muscular effort when coming into and out of the pose. That’s why I put great emphasis on the warm up sequence this week, and working on using the breath and the ‘core’ muscles.
Here’s a reminder of some of what we did - start with some gentle side bends, kneeling or sitting, interspersed with plenty of stretches out into child, cat and downward dog.
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