I am either feeling much better or high on painkillers. Or both. Either way, what matters is that I have once again figured out how to multitask. Maybe.
As it happens, one of the side bends I use regularly involves stretching both the oblique abdominals and — for me, at least — something in my iliopsoas region. I kind of don’t care what exactly is going on there because with my anatomy, anything that moves energy through a hip flexing muscle or the fascia that covers is likely to be part of my body’s wise practice. Plus, you know, I can still talk about core.
Which, in all fairness, this is the lateral bending oblique stretch I was going to share anyway:
Except — for the sake of my hips and spine even on a good day — I like to place something (a folded blanket, a rolled up yoga mat, the binder of junk from my last professional development conference) under my seat to elevate my hips, which lets my spine lengthen up and my thighs and knees drop. This in turn lets me access the muscles in my side ribs, my abdominal obliques, and my hips in order to stretch them. If I sit on the floor with my knees creeping up, the lateral bend still stretches my side ribs; however, obliques and hip flexors sort of collapse in on themselves. Elevating my hips creates space to stretch more.
From a core perspective, each side bend activates all four oblique muscles in some way. In the bend to the left, the left internal and right external obliques stretch while the right internal and left external obliques contract. On the opposite side, the right internal and left external obliques stretch while the left internal and right external obliques contract. I tend to feel the side bend most in my stretching external oblique, but I’m not sure if that’s because of the mechanics of the shape or my individual anatomy.
I’m also a fan of entering into each lateral bend from a cross-legged position, then switching the cross of my legs and repeating to each side. For one, it’s a very simple and safe way for me to move outside of my comfort zone. My natural tendency is to sit with my right leg folded outside my left, so I have to think a lot more about my sensations and movements when my left leg is folded outside my right. Physically, I also experience more hip flexor stretch in whatever leg is folded on the outside. If I only ever enter into this pose with my right leg folded outside my left, my left hip flexor is never going to be able to open up into its maximum amount of stretch. In order to create the space that my body wants and needs, sometimes it’s helpful to consciously move outside of what is comfortable and automatic for me.