Photo credit: Graham Mattock, Mattock Imagery
I’ve just finished writing an article for The Inertia on the importance of sidebends for surfers, and it reminded me not only how great they feel but also how rarely I practice them, in preference of backbends, forward bends, twists and hip openers.
The Benefits of Sidebends
- Sidebends stretch the hips, quadratus lumborum, obliques, intercostals, serratus anterior, lats, delts and triceps.
- Sidebends increase mobility in the spine and shoulders.
- Sidebends can alleviate pain in the shoulders and neck.
- Sidebends can improve posture.
- Sidebends can facilitate more effective breathing.
- Sidebends improve balance and body control.
Sidebends for Athletes
In every sport, there are muscles that get tight from overuse and those that become weak (and tight) from underuse. For example, surfing, snowboarding, golf and tennis involve considerable twisting and rotation of the upper body, whereas in cycling and running, the legs do most of the work and there is limited movement at the core.
Whether from under or overuse, athletes often suffer from aches, pains and soreness resulting from a lack of mobility – especially in the lower back, shoulders and neck.
3 Basic Sidebends
Here are 3 sidebends that can help to loosen up your upper body and increase mobility in the spine and shoulders.
If you have an injury, please get the all-clear from your doctor or physical therapist before practicing these poses.
1. Standing Sidebend
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Toes pointing straight ahead.
- Inhale, sweep your arms out and up, interlace your fingers leaving your index and middle fingers free to point up. Exhale, bend to the right. Keep your arms by your ears to avoid collapsing forward.
- Inhale, come up to centre, reach up. Exhale, bend to the left. Keep your chest open and feel the stretch down the right-hand side of your body.
- Inhale, come back to centre. Stretch up. Exhale bend to the right, repeating 3-5 times on each side.
- Inhale, come back to centre. Exhale, release your hands back down by your sides.
- Avoid this pose if you have a back injury.
2. Low Lunge Sidebend
- From Downward Dog, step your left foot in between your hands, drop your right knee and release your back foot.
- Inhale, sweep your arms out and up into Crescent Lunge. Exhale, sink into the pose.
- Drop your left fingertips to the mat and bend to the left. Keep your chest open and reach through your fingertips.
- Stay in the pose for 5 deep breaths, feeling the stretch in the front of your right thigh and down the right-hand side of your body.
- To come out of the pose, bring your right hand down to the mat, tuck your back toes and step back to Downward Dog for the other side.
- If your fingertips don't reach the mat, you can rest them on a block or low platform.
- Avoid this pose if you have a knee or ankle injury.
3. Extended Side Angle
- From Downward Dog, step your right foot in between your hands in Runners Lunge.
- Check that your right knee is directly above your right ankle and turn your left heel down to the mat.
- Come up, resting your right forearm on your front knee.
- Drop your left shoulder back and circle your left arm down and across your body into Extended Side Angle Pose.
- Draw your right ear away from your shoulder and reach through your fingertips.
- Hold the pose for 5 deep breaths, in and out through your nose.
- Circle your left hand back down to the mat and step back to Downward Dog for the other side.
- Avoid this pose if you have a knee or shoulder injury.
You can find more routines to increase your flexibility in the Yoga 15 Flexibility series, available to download on Vimeo. Here is the link: