This sidebend strengthens your shoulders and core while improving mobility in the shoulders and sides of your body. This posture is also important for increasing spinal mobility and relieving tension in your spine and hips. Start with a shallow bend, and focus on feeling the stretch in the correct areas.

Target Area: Shoulders, Core, Spine, Side Body
Difficulty: Beginner

Benefits:

  • Improves shoulder mobility and health
  • Corrects posture
  • Increases upper-body strength and endurance
  • Stretches side body and releases hip and back tightness

Considerations – who should be careful?

  • Anybody who has an injured shoulder; rotator cuff, pain in lifting arms overhead. Instead, you can keep your arms at your sides, or hands on your hips.
  • Anybody who has a lower-body injury that makes weight bearing difficult. Try to avoid standing postures as they contribute to imbalances which will make it hard to get back to normal after you’ve recovered from your injury.
  • If you have a rib injury, avoid this stretch. It will aggravate the rib injury and delay recovery.

Technique Walkthrough

  1. Stand in Mountain pose with your big toes nearly touching and your heels about 1in (2.5cm) apart.
  2. Interlace your fingers overhead.
  3. Lock your arms, and point your index fingers to the ceiling.
  4. Rotate your arms inward so your biceps face your ears.
  5. Press down into the heels and the balls of your feet.
  6. Make your body as tall as possible, then lean to the right with your upper body, hips lightly pressing in the opposite direction.
  7. Hold the posture, inhaling as you get taller, and exhaling as you bend deeper.
  8. Repeat on the left side.
  9. For better core stability, squeeze your thighs toward one another, and engage the muscles in the side of the body that you are stretching.

Make it easier (Modifications)

  • Don’t bend as far to the side.
  • Bend your elbows or hold a strap overhead.
  • Stand with your feet about hip-width distant if you have trouble with your feet together.

What you should (and shouldn’t) be feeling.

What should you be feeling?

  • Stretch from hip to shoulder
  • Muscle engagement in thighs, core, obliques, and shoulders

What you shouldn’t feel.

  • Uneven shoulders; ensure shoulders are even, facing straight forward

Common Errors & How to Avoid.

  • Toes pointed out; make sure the insides of your feet are parallel to one another.
  • One leg relaxed, other engaged; make sure both legs are working, thighs engaged and knees locked out.
  • Collapsing into one side; make sure you are staying long and tall through your body. Inhale to get taller and lengthen, exhale to go deeper into the pose.
  • Not keeping your chest squared straight forward; usually this can be fixed by rolling back the top shoulder so your chest is no longer facing down, but straight forward.
  • Shoulders too close to the ears; make sure shoulders are relaxed away from the ears (but also not actively pulling down).

FAQs

  • What if I have trouble breathing in this posture?
    Try not to go as deep into the bend, and make sure you can still keep your abs tight and your form correct. You should be able to maintain your breathing, so reduce the intensity of the bend and then increase accordingly.
  • What if I have pain in my shoulders/upper-back?
    Pain is usually caused by weakness or tightness. Make sure you are using your upper-back muscles by squeezing your arms back as far as possible. If you have sharp pain, avoid reaching your arms overhead, and keep your arms along your side.
*Originally published Aug 8, 2014, updated Jan 21, 2019

About The Author

Dean Pohlman is an E-RYT 200 certified yoga instructor and the founder of Man Flow Yoga. Dean is widely considered to be an authority on Yoga for Men. His workouts and programs have been used by professional and collegiate athletes, athletic trainers, as well as Physical Therapists in Texas.

Dean is a successful published Author through DK Publishing (Yoga Fitness for Men), selling 25,000 copies worldwide, in addition to being a co-producer of the Body by Yoga DVD Series, which has sold over 40,000 copies on Amazon since its release in 2016.

Man Flow Yoga has been featured in Muscle & Fitness Magazine, Men’s Health, The Chicago Sun, New York Magazine, and many more major news media outlets.


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