How often in yoga do we find ourselves being forceful in our quest for a deeper backbend or forward bend? Its a habit we are all a little guilty of from time to time. However its possible to change this habit a little by directing a little more attention into opening and move the sides of our bodies. Sidebends stretch out muscles, like the quadratus lumborum, that don’t get as much release in forward bends and backbends. By leaning into and breathing into our sides we can send breath through the ribs, lower back, hips, neck, and the entire side portion of the spine. 



Cross legged easy pose side stretches
Sit in crossed legged easy poses take a long inhale and then as you exhale walk your hands out in front of you. Take a moment to set the intention to flow breath down the length and bredth of the back and now walk your hands to the right sending breath down the left side of the body via the armpit towards the hip. Keeping sitting bones firmly grounded now walk your hands to the left and breath into the right side befor moving back to midline.

Sitting upright again change the cross of your leg and raise the right arm to the sky while extending the left palm away from the left hip. Soften the left elbow towards the floor – press into the left palm and lean the right arm over head towards the left. Look up underneath the right tricep and draw the right arm out of your peripheral sight while breathing from the right armpit to the hip keep lengthening the right side of the torse while shortening the left. The repeat on the left side. Then take a second foward bend prowling your hands towards the top of your mat.

Kneeling side stretch
Come to kneeling on all fours. Walk the hand to the left of your mat and keep walking them until they come as close as possible to being alongside the toes. Breathe into the right side of the body lengthening the right side while shortening the left. Then repeat walking the hand towards the right side.

Downward facing dog side stretch
Come into downward facing dog. Pivot the heels to the right,  bend your right knee and direct it across the left thigh towards the left. Extend you hips and buttocks towards the left and breath into the right side. Change side pivoting feet so that heels point left bend the left knee and direct it across the right thigh towards the left while extending buttocks towards the right.

Low lunge side stretch variation
Step your right foot between your hands, lower your left knee to the earth, untuck your toes, inhale and raise your arms. Lengthen your tailbone. As you exhale, touch your right fingers to the earth (or a block) and reach your left arm up and over to the right, arcing your left side body. Hold for 5 breaths. Inhale as you raise both arms, exhale and lower your hands, return to Dog, and switch sides.

Swinging standing forward bend
Come to standing at the top of your mat in a forward bend with your feet just wider than your hips. Turn your heels out slightly. Hold the opposite elbows as your spine lengthens and the crown of your head descends. Pendulum your torso loose and free from side to side for five breaths.

Side plank
Step back to plank. Then move into sideplank balancing on the left arm extending the right arm forwards to the front of your mat. Breathe into the right side then change and practice side plank on the opposite side.

Three legged downward facing dog
Return to downward facing dog.
From downward facing dog raise your right leg to the sky. Find your balance and bend your right knee opening the hip as you lengthen through your tailbone. Send energy your hands and breathe into your side body for five long deep breaths, Straighten your leg and level your hips then lower you leg to the ground. Change sides.

Gate Pose 
Step left knee to the ground and extend your right leg out laterally, turn it out and place the sole of your right foot on the ground. Inhals and bring your arms our to the sides at shoulder height as you exhale being the right hand to the top of the thigh or shin and reach over to the right with the left hand. Hold for three breaths then inhale with arms extended parallel to the floor. Then take the left hand over to the left and extend to the right with the right hand. Look up under right tricep. Turn palm of right hand to the sky. Change sides.

Garland Pose

With your feet as wide as your mat, squat, reaching your sitting bones toward the earth. Lift your chest and the crown of your head to the sky. If your heels don’t touch the floor, place a blanket beneath them. Bring your hands to prayer at your heart. Hold for 9 breaths.
Squats with standing side bends 
From garland pose, interlace your fingers; as you inhale, stand up, spin your palms to the sky, and reach to the right, bending and lengthening your side body. Exhale back to Malasana. 

Interlace, inhale, stand up, and reach to the left. Repeat this sequence, moving from Malasana to Mountain pose side stretch, 3 times on each side before moving to child’s pose to rest.

Side stretch in extended childs pose
In child’s pose extend both palm forwards along the ground and then walk hands to the right breathing into the left side then walk hands to the left and breath into the right side.

Come to kneeling upright with toes tucked under resting sit bones on your heels. Interlace fingers interlace fingers as you raise arms above head and take hands first to the right then the left breathing into both sides of the body.

Rest in Savasana