Astoria Yoga Studio, May Focus: Side Bends


With our next monthly focus we move toward an examination of the sides of the body in side bends.

Let's jump right in and explore the anatomy, postural function and movement of the myofascial tissues of the side of the body. The connective tissue and muscular chain of the sides of the body is called the Lateral Line (LL).

After spending some time examining the relationship between the Superficial Front Line and the Superficial Back line, let's take a look at the structure that connects the two together: the Lateral Line.

A look at the anatomy of the Lateral Line:

Lateral Line (Image Tom Meyers, Anatomy Trains)
  • The Lateral Line starts at the bottom of the foot in the attachment of the Fibularis Longus muscle. This muscle )helps to create the transverse arch of the foot. Muscles involved here are the fibularis longus and fibularis brevis
  • Traveling up the outside of the leg, the LL continues from the side of the knee up toward your hip via the Illiotibial Tract/abductor muscles, the Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL) and the gluteus maximus
  • From the Gluteus Maximus the LL threads its way up the side of the body via the lateral abdominal oblique muscles and the external and internal intercostal muscles (muscles between your rib cage)
  • From here the LL winds up toward the side of your neck into two muscles of your neck, the Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) and the Spenius capitis.

The Postural Function of the Lateral Line of the body:

  • Functions posturally to balance between front and back
  • Balances between left and right
  • Acts as a connector between all of the other facial lines: the Superficial Front Line, the Superficial Back Line, the Arm Lines and the Spiral Line
  • Stabilizes the trunk and the legs in a coordinated manner

What does movement (shortening the muscles) of the Lateral Line look like?

  • Side bends
  • Abduction at the hip (bringing your leg out to the side)
  • Eversion of the foot (collapsing in at the arch)
  • Helps to support and create a brake for side bends and twists

Side Bends and Discernment

If we look at the opening the Superficial Front Line (opening the SFL leads to backbends) as a way to open yourself into the world and say yes, and the lengthening of the Superficial Back Line (which leads to a forward bend) as a way to explore your own inner world, contract in and say no to outside influence. One function of the Lateral Line of the body could be perceived as a connection between the two. A connection between the “yes” energy of opening the front of the body and the “no” energy of closing off the front of the body into a forward fold into the “maybe” of the lateral line.

Let’s take the example of a skittish cat. We have a new cat at home that we brought in during one of the recent spring storms. She’d been outside for awhile, and because of the food we’d been feeding her, we were able to talk her into the house during a particularly nasty day on the coast. She’s been hiding out in our home office for the last couple of weeks, trying to decide if it’s safe for her to explore the rest of our house.

When she is trying to decide whether a situation is safe, she’ll sidle into the room rather than walk straight in with confidence. She feels safe enough to test the waters, but not safe enough to charge in to the room. She’s using the energy of the side body to toe dip, to test the waters, to say, “maybe this is ok, but maybe not”. It’s not a complete opening to the situation, nor is it a complete rejection. It’s a maybe.

The connection between the SBL and the SFL is a way for us to find some discernment in the body, but also in life.

The “maybe” that can be presented posturally by turning to the side can be examined in the connections between understanding the difference between things that seem to be pretty closely related. For example, a few things that need a process of discernment and can seem to be the same thing are: happiness/money, wisdom/knowledge, need/greed, love/lust, choice/habit, freedom/power. The blurred lines between each of these examples can be helped with careful and thoughtful discernment.

What do these poses look like in the body? We've put together a few examples of side bends that you can do at home. Give them a try on your own, or come to any class during May to explore these poses as well as others in your body.



Written by Amanda Barp

Amanda Barp is co-founder of Watershed Wellness, a licensed massage therapist with 10+ years experience, a registered yoga teacher with a passion for learning and teaching about the human body & how to feel at home in it.