I’ve been thinking about the side body lately. This is one thing that I love about yoga-speak — the idea that the different parts of our whole body are bodies unto themselves: front body, back body, side body.
Side body refers to, well, you probably figured it out already — our sides. I’ve been focusing my concentration on that area from underneath the arm (otherwise known as the arm pit; there really is no elegant way to say that) running all the way down the side seam to the knee.
Why have I been thinking about this? Well, because mine has been awfully tight lately. And because I know the same is true for many people — maybe even you.
The Side Body Shuffle
Here’s the scenario: we spend all day (or lots of the day) in front of the computer. You might even be in front of a computer right now, so you can get a lived experience of this. When we’re in front of a computer (or TV), the side body often gets slouchy (I’m right there with you! I just caught myself slouching it up while writing this). We’re rarely sitting at the 90 degree angles ergonomic practitioners recommend, so that’s where the compression comes in, particularly in the torso.
Take a moment and calculate how much time you spend compressing your side body (aka sitting) vs. stretching your side body. If you’re anything like me, it’s something like 10 hours to 3.5 seconds (on a good day).
Side Body/Subtle Body
If we want to look at this from a subtle body, or energetic, perspective, we might use the chakras as a point of inquiry. In this seated position we’ve talked about, at least 4 of the major chakras could be compressed — heart, solar plexus, spleen and sacral. These 4 govern our sense of internal balance, immunity, sense of self, and feeling of physical security, just to touch the tip of the iceberg.
The same can be said using other energetic systems as a guide, such as meridians or nadis. Basically, there’s a lot more happening here than we usually register, and opening up this area of the body physically can translate to freedom on the more subtle levels of the body, too.
Do you ever get up from the computer and feel grouchy? Irritable? Off-kilter?
It might not just be your too-full inbox.
This level of body awareness is an exquisite form of self-care. It asks you to stay (or get) in tune with your body and meet its needs, even (and especially) at times we may not be thinking about it.
Side Angle Pose
Place a block within your easy reach before you begin.
Stand on the mat with your feet approximately 2.5-3.5 feet apart (the width will vary based on a number of factors, including the length, strength and flexibility of your legs).
From here, turn your left toes in approximately 30 degrees and turn your right leg and foot out 90 degrees.
Bend through your right thigh and knee, making sure that your knee is tracking with your 2nd toe and that you’re not bending past your ankle (if you are, scooch your foot forward a bit until you’re not). Before you go any further, check in and make sure it is safe for you to keep bending your knee. Use your internal wisdom here; if you come into pain or strain, back out.
Grab your block and place it behind your right foot. I suggest placing the block on its tallest setting to begin; it’s always nice to be supported because it allows you to begin with freedom. From there, you can see if it’s possible to maintain that feeling of freedom while turning the block down a notch — if so, you can go for it. If not, stay with alignment and freedom. From here, place your right hand onto the block.
Another option here is to place your right forearm above your right knee, building the pose from here. Either choice is good, so feel free to go with whatever one you prefer!
Notice what you’re feeling–especially any crunching through the right thigh and side of your torso. The block helps to alleviate a degree of crunching by giving you added height. However, if you still feel some (which I do), try this: release your hand from the block, straighten your right leg, and come back to standing. Pause here for a moment to reorient yourself. When you’re ready, bring your hand to your right lower abdomen. If you have belly skin that gets in the way here, grip onto it gently. Keeping your grip, begin bending again through the right thigh and knee. As you bend, tuck the skin in and down toward the pelvis, or the crook where the thigh meets the abdomen. After you’ve bent and tucked, release your right hand again to the block. This movement can give you a little more freedom in the right side of the body.
You may now bring the left hand to the left hip. You can continue to work here, noticing and experimenting with your alignment. If you would like, extend the left arm up and over the left ear, palm facing the floor. This is where that side body freedom comes in. You may now have the feeling of one long line on the left side of your body extending from foot to fingers.
The head can be in several positions: looking down at the ground, looking at the wall in front of your pelvis (not in front of your right foot), or looking up at the left hand.
Take your time here and see what works for you.
To come out, gently release your right arm from your leg/block, and gently come back to standing. Bring your feet back to parallel and repeat on the other side.
Enjoy your happier side body!