Gentle yoga side stretch opens the ribs and lungs
When we’re tired we often collapse the upper body at the sternum and collar bones. Ease into this stretch for the intercostal muscles between your ribs, and gradually bring space to your lungs.
As a yoga warm up for the side-body, shoulders, and spine, this meditation stretch provides a vital transition into your practice. Warming up supplies fresh oxygen to your brain and brings blood into your muscles, helping you to be flexible. It also sets aside time to synchronize your movement and your breath.
Don’t let stronger muscles dominate or push
Remember to practice sthira and sukha – steadiness and ease. Calmly scan your being for areas where you are trying too hard and areas where you don’t feel anything. Try to bring a balanced sense of participation throughout your body.
During your warm up, keep noticing when you’re thinking about something besides what you’re doing, then bring yourself “back to center” by recycling the energy of thought into your awareness of sensations.
When you finish, stretch your legs out n front of you, wiggle your toes and circle your feet at the ankle.
Practice Tip Focus your attention on feeling yourself move. When you notice you’re thinking about something else, just pause and bring your attention back to your movement, your breath, your sensation. Slow down to give yourself time to be aware of moving and time to breathe more fully without forcing your breath.
Text of the Video For this meditation, form an intention to move slowly and maintain an awareness of your breath.
Touch your right hand to the floor and circle your left arm overhead as you inhale. Hold your breath a beat. Instead of stretching at your arm out of your shoulder, try to bring the stretch to your side between your hip and your ribs. It’s a feeling of lifting your torso out of your hips.
Exhale slowly as you breathe your arm down. Pause. Circle up a second time as you inhale. This time as you pause between breaths, move your right hand out further to the side on the floor to support you. Exhale as you bend your right elbow and reach your left arm over and across your head to your right. Remember to continue to exhale until there’s no breath in your lungs – exhale completely. Hold there briefly, try to stretch in the side of your body above your hip lifting your side ribs up toward the ceiling. Inhale as you sit up reaching your arm overhead and exhale your arm back to your side.
Change sides and repeat both breaths with the left hand touching the floor and the right arm reaching up on the first inhalation, returning your arm to your side on the exhale, pausing between each inhale and exhale, paying attention to the sensation of movement.
Circle your right arm up again with your next inhalation, bend your left elbow and reach on the exhalation. Inhale as you sit up bringing your right arm overhead and exhale as your arm circles back to your side.
Finally, put your hands on the floor in front of you and walk them forward to release your back. If you like, you can put your forehead on the floor, a cushion or block as you breathe into the muscles of your low back.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.