Asana practice: Side Body

Releasing the side body brings a profound sense of ease. We can view the side body as the pathway of muscle and fascia running from the outer edge of the foot, outer ankle, outer knee, outer hip (medial gluts), side waist, side ribs, and the sides of the neck and skull. Typically we view movementin the front and back plane, opening through back arching and forward bending. The lateral lines of the body are commonly in congruent due to habitual patterns such as handedness, which can create shortening or twisting in the structure resulting in strain.

When we side bend in yoga asana practice it brings lateral expansion and profound release to the diaphragm. By stretching the muscles around the ribs and side waist we also gain access to our deeper core muscles designed to support the spine efficiently.

The sides of the neck and skull are areas of habitual tension for many people, creating TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder) and headaches. Softening these areas provides stress relief. The ears are also located on the sides of the skull and conscious yielding brings deep inner listening.

The following sequence openings and balances the right and left lateral lines allowing for ease in deep twisting postures:


We began with Sensory Awareness work: rocking, gliding, and unwinding movements, practiced while lying on the back. This technique is based on the work of Moshe Feldenkrais and Thomas Hanna and has been developed by Tias Little as preparatory work for asana. Our movements on the back included arching and lengthening the lower back and neck, and alternately expanding and contracting the entire side line.

After the Sensory Awareness movements we practiced the following asanas to open the side body:

Adho Mukha Svanasana (down dog)- we added a side bend to open the side waist, ribs, and lateral border of the diaphragm.
Parivrtta virasana (twising hero's pose)- with a focus on lifting the side waist and softening the neck and skull.
Urdhva Hastasana in Tadasana (mountain pose with the arms raised, palms facing each other)- we began by taking the pinky toes away from the ring toes to lengthen the outer foot and raised the arms from the outer feet.
Parsva Uttanasana (standing forward bend with the spine drawn to the side. Both hands grip the right outer ankle when bending right). This version of the pose releases the quadratus lumborum, the muscles that run along the sides of the spine between the top of the pelvis and the floating ribs.
Trikonasana (triangle pose)- we drew the pinky toe away from the ring toe. We drew the tail bone inand turned the torso.
Crescent moon- stand with feet together and reach arms up. Clasp your right wrist with your left hand and side bend to the left. Keep your hips and shoulders square to the front of your mat.
Uttihita Parsvakonasana (extended side angle pose)- bring the actions of Trikonasana to this pose

Adho Mukha Svanasana with strap around the outer heels. This version of down dog releases the outer leg and ankles.
Parighasana (the gateway pose)- this pose deeply stretches the transversus abdominis and the lateral border of the diaphragm, expanding breath capacity.
Prasarita Padottanasana to the side (wide legged forward bend). Strap your legs at mid-thigh and actively engage your quadriceps against the strap, releasing the IT bands and working the two legs evenly.  Take the same actions as uttansana side bending in the pose.
Parsva Adho Mukha Virasana (downward facing virasana pose) also with a side bend to release the psoas for seated poses and open the quadratus lumborum.
Maricyasana III -This seated twist reduces asymmetry in the spine, opens the sides of the abdomen and ribs and prepares us for the deeper twist to come.
Janu Sirsasana (head to knee pose) This is one of the best poses for releasing the lumbo-sacral region and quadratus lumborum.
Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend or intense west pose)

Parivrtta paschimottanasana (twisting paschimottanasana)- this is a deep front bend and lateral twist, freeing the back and side body, restoring the kidneys and digestive organs.
Adho Mukha Svanasana is a wonderful pose to feel the expansion and congruency between front, back, and sides of the body.
Savasana (corpse pose)- savasana is a time to savor the movement of prana or life force within your being as you rest against the floor. After the side body sequence place your arms wider than your torso so your side body has breathing room. After savasana take time to sit in meditation feeling the spaciousness of your skull and side body.