Yoga: Side Poses for Balance
Yoga: Side Poses for Balance
Muscle imbalances that can create a rounded posture are often the result of overdevelopment of the chest and abdominal areas. People tend to focus on these areas because they are in the front of the body and that is what you see in the mirror. As a result, the side of the body is often overlooked.
Even the back of the body tends to attract more attention than the side. Most of us experience back pain from time to time, so we have this awareness. We can feel the stretch in the back when we do forward bends, just as we can feel the stretch in the front of the body when we bend back.
However, in Parighasana (Door Pose), the side of the body is the focus. This intense lateral stretch is named for its shape, which resembles a bar used to close a gate. Because this pose allows full expansion of the lungs because it opens the side ribs, it is a gateway to improved breathing. It helps tone the waist by stretching the obliques and can help provide stability to the lower back by stretching the muscles deep in the back of the waist. This can be extremely helpful if you have a stiff back and can help prevent and/or relieve lower back pain.
Parighasana is an excellent preparation for Parsvakonasana (Side Angle Pose) and Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) due to the fact that it opens the hips and creates length in the sides. It can also transform your breathing because you can now become aware and feel the breath on the sides of your body.
This pose also provides a great stretch to the intercostal muscles, which are located between the ribs. These muscles are often neglected and tight, leading to postural problems. The chest expands as the intercostals stretch, resulting in increased breathing. Hence, relief from asthma, allergies and colds can be realized by practicing this pose.
A simple awareness exercise is excellent preparation for Parighanasana. Place your hands on your chest as tightly as possible to the sides of your body while lying on the floor with your knees bent. Become aware of the flow of breath under your hands. Close your eyes. Feel your chest expand outward as you inhale. Feel your ribs drop inward as you exhale. Stay here for a few breaths, focusing on expanding and releasing the side ribs.
With a blanket nearby, place your mat near a wall. Do a few rounds of Cat and Cow to warm up your spine. Inhale into Cow and then exhale and arch your back into Cat position. Then stretch your body by going from child’s pose to downward facing dog, synchronizing your breath with the movements. After a few rounds of this, rest in child’s pose.
Kneel on the folded blanket with your knees hip-width apart. The hips are parallel and perpendicular to the floor and the thighs are just above the knees. The lower abdomen lifts up while the tailbone relaxes down. With your toes spread, press the tops of your feet, toes and shins into the blanket. Extend up along the spine through the top of the head as you inhale. As you exhale, establish a solid base through your lower legs and knees.
Keep your right knee and upper right thigh facing up as you extend your right leg out to the right, keeping it in line with your upper body. Try to flatten your right leg on the floor and push it down as you bring your right leg back to your body. Keep your left thigh straight up and down and continue to press your left foot, toes, knee and shin into the blanket.
Inhale and extend your arms out to the sides, palms down. Keep the length in the spine as you extend your arms apart. Bring the right hand to the right thigh. Press the fleshy area of your right hand between your thumb and forefinger into the crease where your leg meets your upper body. Lengthen your lower back by drawing your navel toward your spine. Keep your gaze soft and forward.
Exhale while at the hip and bend your upper body over your right leg. Extend your right hand over your right leg and let it land wherever it feels comfortable (thigh, shin, knee or foot). Extend left hand up to ear with palm facing in. As you inhale slowly and deeply, feel your chest expand in all directions. Take several slow, deep breaths. Elongate your spine with each inhalation and allow yourself to go deeper with each exhalation.
Press the right hand into the right leg when you have gone as far as you can in the side stretch. Keeping your pelvis in place, rotate from the base of your spine. Keep your gaze in front of your left hand towards the sky. First curl your stomach and then stretch evenly up your spine to the crown of your head. Feel the intercostal muscles expand as you inhale into the left rib cage.
Rest in child’s pose before repeating on the other side. Parigasana can feel very different from each side. Remember to challenge yourself without straining. Regularly incorporating this asana into your vinyasa will promote balance.
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