Standing Side Bend Pose is a basic yoga pose that helps stretch the side body muscles as well as stretch and tone the muscles that support your spine.
This is usually done at the beginning of your practice to prepare your body for other difficult poses.
If you plan to work your core muscles in your yoga routine, the standing side bend pose is a must-have for your routine, and if you’re a beginner, it will help you build a solid foundation for a healthy overall yoga practice.
Standing Side Bend: Step-by-Step Instructions
We talked to 200-RYT yoga teacher Ali Jane about the steps to getting into the pose. Get ready to experience a lot more mobility in your spine when Standing Side Bend Pose becomes part of your daily yoga routine.
- Stand tall and keep your feet and legs together. Relax your shoulders away from the ears and look straight ahead.
- Reach the surface of both hands and interlace your fingers while extending your index fingers and pointing toward the ceiling; This grip is known in yoga as a steeple grip.
- Align your biceps with your ears.
- Squeeze your inner thighs and activate your core for balance.
- Take a breath and gently bend your body to the right as you exhale. Extend from your left hip through your ribs. Pull your left hand to the right of the room.
- Keep your core engaged. You may feel a bit of a jolt through your core. Work to stay engaged and breathe deeply, but feel free to back off if it gets too much.
- Focus on lifting up and over instead of just bending to the side. As you lengthen your left side, contract your right side (decrease the space from your shoulders to your hips).
- Inhale to return to center. Exhale and repeat on the other side.
How to make standing side bends easier
If you have trouble balancing or keeping your feet together, place your feet hip-width apart. Jehn recommends keeping your feet together to activate your core muscles more because you’re working harder to balance.
Another notable change is to hold your hands at the heart center (in prayer) to protect your shoulders from pain.
How to make standing side bends harder
For a challenge, add weight for a standing dumbbell side bend. Use less weight to start and start with your feet in a wider stance for more balance.
- Hold the dumbbells to your chest. Bend to the right (still keeping your weights on your chest) as you would in an unweighted standing side bend pose.
- Hold for a beat, then return to center to repeat on the other side.
- Avoid placing weights above your head to protect your shoulder joints and muscles.
What are the benefits of standing side bends?
Like Mountain Pose, Standing Side Bend Pose is a gentle movement that engages both your spinal erector muscles as well as your obliques.
The pose provides ample opportunity to tune into your breath (which is fundamental in any yoga class).
Consider this pose a foundational stretch that strengthens your lower core muscles. Standing Side Bend Pose is also great for your spine health.
“Side bends are incredible for the human body because our spine can go in so many different directions,” says Jehn. “We tend to limit it up and down or front and back, so incorporating side bends will promote the longevity of your spine’s health.”
Here’s what happens to your body during this stretch:
- Promotes better posture. The standing side bend opens your upper body by stretching from the hips to the shoulders. As you stretch from your hips to your shoulders, you’re stretching your intercostal muscles (the muscles between your ribs) and toning your spine muscles to better protect your spine. “You’re training the muscles around your spine to be stronger in every sense,” says Jehn.
- Strengthens your middle and lower core. Your abdominal and spinal erector muscles help you balance as you bend to the side. “The biggest part of the body that should be noticed is the standing side bend [lower to mid-core]Jehan said.