There really aren’t a whole lot of day-to-day tasks that require lateral bending. That’s probably why most people find side stretches in yoga—such as Parighasana (Gate Latch Pose), Talasana (Palm Tree Pose) and Parvrtta Janu Sirsasana (Revolved Head-of-the-Knee Pose)—so invigorating. The thoracic spine—the part of the spine that connects to the ribs—is designed to move this way. The facet joints (the articulations between vertebrae) come together in such a way that they slide easily over one another in lateral bending.
Lateral bending mobilizes your spine to prepare it for more challenging movements and can be woven into Restorative Yoga practice with a bolster. Practicing a supported lateral bend early in a Restorative session not only feels wonderful, but it also helps prepare your thoracic spine for other poses—especially for Restorative backbends such as Supported Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose) or Viparita Karani (Supported Legs Up the Wall), which are not so natural for the thoracic spine.
Junior Yoga Bolster Side Bend
- Gather your props. You’ll need a Yoga Mat and a Yoga Bolster (I prefer to use a Junior Yoga Bolster for this pose. You might want to add a Yoga Blanket, placing it over the yoga mat for extra cushioning.
- If you’re using a blanket, fold it in half and spread it over the length of your mat.
- Place your bolster across the center of your mat.
- Sit on your mat so that your hips are about 5-8 inches away from your bolster.
- Lie sideways over your bolster, and extend your arms out overhead, laying your head on your bottom arm.
- Move around to find a comfortable position. You may need to move closer or farther away from your bolster.
- Stretch your arms out as you ground your hips. Stay for 5 to 10 deep breaths, and then push yourself up to a seated position.
- Repeat on the other side.