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Satisfying Side-bends

An exploration of Lateral Bends



In the world of Yoga Asana, side-bends are least likely to win a popularity contest. But these invaluable poses deserve much more credit than they receive!

In our daily activities, the body is very familiar with bending forward, (spinal flexion), bending back (spinal extension), and even twisting (axial rotation).

But this unique side-bending action, also known as lateral flexion, offers a whole new range of physical movement and inner awareness with tremendous benefit.

Side-bends bring balance to our bodies, steadiness to our minds and awaken a profound sense of inner equilibrium. In side-bends we learn to harmonize both strength with softness, spaciousness with depth, grounding with expansion and learn to bring this equanimity into all areas of our life.

Offering a new perspective for the body and mind, side-bends help us to see ourselves and our lives from a new angle with a fresh outlook and insights.



  • Bring balance to the body and mind
  • Increase lung capacity by opening the rib cage and intercostal muscles
  • Oxygenate the body with improved breathing
  • Improve proprioception (spatial awareness)
  • Reduce lower back, hip and outer knee pain
  • Bring balance to the body and mind
  • Increase lung capacity by opening the rib cage and intercostal muscles
  • Oxygenate the body with improved breathing
  • Improve proprioception (spatial awareness)
  • Reduce lower back, hip and outer knee pain
  • Improve overall posture and physical alignment
  • Enhance digestion, elimination and metabolism
  • Cultivate present moment awareness (mindfulness)
  • Strengthen and lengthen the body’s myofascial Lateral Line (of Anatomy Trains)
  • Improve overall posture and physical alignment
  • Enhance digestion, elimination and metabolism
  • Cultivate present moment awareness (mindfulness)
  • Strengthen and lengthen the body’s myofascial Lateral Line (of Anatomy Trains)


Each Yoga Asana (posture), benefits not only the physical body, but also has a unique effect on stimulating and invigorating the various spiritual energy centres located along the spine called Chakras.

Main chakras


Is activated by rooting down through the feet, legs or sit bones and engaging the pelvic floor to find balance and stability which brings strength and courage to the body and in all areas of life.


Is stimulated by activating the core and engaging the belly towards the spine in a partial Uddiyana Bandha to maintain stability. This develops concentration, willpower and determination both in our practice and in our daily life.


Is stimulated by extending out through the arms into space—cultivating a sense of love, compassion, forgiveness and acceptance of ourselves and others.

Additional Chakras


Naturally activated to sustain balance and stability.


Activated by turning the head for example in Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose or looking up to the sky in Tree Pose.


Stimulated through one pointed awareness on the Drishti point (gaze).

our favorite SIDE BENDs

Gate Pose (Parighasana)

Open the golden gates to your heart with this side bending, rib-expanding, heart-opening super pose.

Revolved Head to Knee (Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana)

A traditional seated side bending pose that helps us open the rib cage, breath deeply and cultivate awareness of the present moment. 

Triangle (Utthita Hasta Trikonasana)

A classical yoga pose, renowned by countless lineages of yoga known for its superpowers of aligning our subtle body while strengthening and opening the whole body.

Extended Side Angle (Utthita Parsvakonasana)

Bringing stability to the body, this grounding pose connects you to the earth and opens the full sideline of the body (while enhancing your willpower and focus too!) 

Exalted or Reverse Warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana)

An active and powerful side-bend to connect you to your inner warrior(ess) and invite the inner light of your heart to shine forth. 

Standing Half Moon (Ardha Chandrasana)

A gentle, yet effective (and oh-so-satisfying) side bend. The perfect posture to warm up the sideline of the body for your practice, or to enjoy as a fulfilling morning pose or as a work-break deep breather.

Easy Pose Side-Bend (Sukhasana)

A simple yet effective side bend and a pre-meditation staple to open up the ribs and lower back for deeper breathing and a magical meditation!

getting into your SIDE BENDING pose!

  • Focus on the breath. Become present and aware.
  • Yield into the earth. Imagine rooting down into the earth through your foundation—the feet, sit bones or knees for grounding and stability.
  • Engage the Bandhas. Imagine drawing this energy up from your foundation and into the base of the spine by activating the pelvic floor (Moola Bandha) to steady the body.

  • Engage the core. Imagine bringing this energy even further up the spine by drawing the navel slightly in and up towards the spine (Uddiyana Bandha) to create even more stability, alignment and balance.
  • Finally, add your arms! Use your inhalation to lengthen your spine and reach up towards the sky, and follow your exhalation to move into the side bend.
  • Connect to the Central Channel: As you side-bend, feel or imagine as though you are hugging your muscles, energy and focus into the midline of the body. Concentrate on a long and spacious spine to connect to the central conducting channel of energy called Sushumna Nadi.



  • Anchor to sail. Continue to anchor down into the earth through your foundation—feet, sit bones or knee, as you extend your arms up and over like a sail. The foundation is like an anchor giving the pose structure, and the arms are like the sail, giving the pose direction and depth.
  • Avoid Collapsing into the bent side body. Try to maintain length and integrity on both sides of the spine by continually lengthening the spine and the arms to reach both up and over.
  • Balance is the key. Naturally, one side of the body may be more open than the other. Try to find the same level of depth on both sides of the body.
  • Find your Drishti. Concentrate your eyes on a single, steady point of focus. By stilling the gaze, the mind becomes still, and by stilling the mind, the body finds stillness.
  • Ready for a challenge? Take your practice even further by closing your eyes, and finding an inner gaze (Drishti). Focus on the space between the eyebrows (the 3rd Eye or Ajna Chakra).
  • Stay Present. Continue to watch your breath using each inhale to create more length in the spine and each exhale to gently deepen the pose.
  • Hold for 5 to 10 breaths—or as long as feels comfortable.


  • Exit: Use the core to slowly and gently move out of the pose and back to your starting position with a steady gaze.
  • Repeat the pose on the other side to stay balanced in the body.
  • Counter: You can rest and counter balancing poses with a neutral spine position such as Mountain Pose if standing, wide-legged Child’s Pose if kneeling, Easy Pose (Sukhasana) if seated or Knees to Chest (Apanasana) if on your back. Lie down in Shavasana for the final counter pose.


If you are pregnant, prone to dizziness, have low blood pressure or have difficulty balancing, due to the asymmetrical nature of side-bends, be mindful of strenuous, standing side-bends. Stick with gentle and seated side bends to prevent dizziness and risk of falling.

If you experience nerve or electric pain, back pain, or tingling sensations in the body, gently move the body until the sensations subside. Or, if the pain or sensations are severe, slowly move out of the pose and rest in Child’s Pose  (Balasana,)  or Shavasana, skipping the pose entirely.


Easy pose side-bend

Easy pose side-bend (sukhasana)

Sit on the edge of a bolster or on the floor. While inhaling, raise your right arm up to the sky. Place your left hand down to the earth beside you. As you exhale, reach your top arm up and over to the left into a side bend while keeping the chest open and spine long. Repeat the other side.

Revolved head to knee pose

Revolved Head to Knee (Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana)

Sit on the edge of a bolster or on the floor. Extend your left leg out to the side, and bring your right heel in towards your pelvis (placing a block under your right knee for support if needed.) Either (a) place a strap around your left foot held by your left hand or (b) place your left hand onto your left thigh or shin. Root down through your sit bones and inhale, reaching your right arm up to the sky lengthening both sides of the body. As you exhale, reach your right arm up and over to the left keeping the shoulders in one line, with your palm facing down to the earth.

Variation a

Variation b

Variation C

Variation d

Standing Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)

From Mountain Pose, reach your arms over head and either (a) reach one hand around your opposite wrist, bringing your arms to your left while you move the opposite hip away from the extended hands, and then repeat on the other side or (b) crossing the left leg in front of the right, while following the same motion with the arms and hips as indicated on (a). Both variations can be done interlocking your thumbs, middle, ring and little fingers while extending your index finger towards the sky (sometimes known as Kali Mudra) and side-bend in one direction, as indicated in (a) and then switch to the other side. Both variations (a) and (b) can also be done laying down for a more gentle variation (as indicated by variations (c) and (d.)

gate pose

Gate Pose (Parighasana)

From tabletop position on your hands and knees, extend your right leg out to the side with your heel in line with your hip and toes pointing forward. Lift from your core as you slowly raise your upper body and extend your arms out to the side with your hands in line with your shoulders. Exhale and gently place your right hand onto the side of your right leg above or below the knee and reach your left arm up and over to the right with the bicep alongside your ear, and your palm facing down towards the earth.

Variation A

Variation b

Triangle Pose (Utthita Hasta Trikonasana)

From Warrior II, straighten your front leg and shorten your stance slightly. Place your back hand onto your sacrum to find your centre with your front arm reaching forward. Inhale and create length in your spine. Exhale and hinge at your hips to reach your front arm forward and down placing your hand (a) on your front thigh or shin, or (b) on a block or on the floor keeping both sides of the torso long. Gently twist your top shoulder open to the sky to stack your shoulders, and if it is comfortable, reach your top hand up towards the sky, palm facing the side.

With practice, side-bends will revitalize your body and mind. By opening up the side body and exploring new angles, we find the physical and mental space to breathe deeply and expansively and gain new perspectives and insight into life. Incorporate more side-bends into your daily practice to feel refreshed, rebalanced and renewed—in both body, mind and spirit.



About The Author

Bindi Stables

Bindi is an internationally certified Yoga and Meditation Teacher and Ayurvedic Practitioner who teaches dozens of yoga retreats annually to people from around the world. She has taught thousands of students essential asana techniques to deepen their personal practice, how to feel healthier through Ayurveda and how to discover happiness through meditation. Her practical and inspiring teaching style helps students quickly develop the skills and confidence they need to refine their practice and learn effective teaching techniques to share with others.


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