Do you practice yoga regularly but still feel “stuck” in certain spots? Senior Yoga Medicine teacher Allison Candelaria created this muscle-and fascia-freeing flow to tune up the lateral sides of your body.
With much of the body’s natural movement being forward, the side body tends to get overlooked in our daily lives. We rarely bend to the left or to the right. As a result, the tissues of the side body can end up tight and/or weak from top to bottom. Poor postural habits don’t help. Slouching can create so much tension in the upper body that lifting the arms fully overhead becomes impossible and stretching from side to side causes discomfort.
Let’s take a look at how the individual muscles are affected. The triceps rarely get a good release and can sometimes be the limiting factor in yoga poses with arms overhead. The latissimus dorsi muscle, which plays the important role of connecting the lower body to the arms, tends to adhere to surrounding tissues. Melting tension in this very large muscle can free up more range of motion. The quadratus lumborum (QL), our lateral lumbar spine stabilizer, often tight from sitting or standing, can shorten and decrease the distance between the ribs and the pelvis. Creating a nice release in the QL can make us feel taller and more pliable.
Standing, sitting and repetitive forward movements have a huge impact on the lower body. The gluteus medius on the side of the hip, for example, is prone to becoming tight from all of our natural forward movement, which can interfere with our ability to stabilize the pelvis. We can use our yoga practice to stretch the front and back of the hip to reduce tension in the iliotibial band that runs down the side of the leg (think poses like Reclined Figure Four and Gomukasana with a Side Bend). But with myofascial release, the goal is to release it from the quadriceps muscles, allowing them to move independently of one another. Finally, the lower leg can hold a lot of tension from the stress of holding us upright. The extensors of the foot can get bound up with the flexors, including the calves, so these areas are also worthy of some relief.
By focusing on releasing the fascia, this flow will tackle these common areas of tension—one at a time—then retrain the muscles to lengthen, strengthen and fire more efficiently. Since the tissues are all connected via the fascial system, working on any part of this lateral line of muscles will affect the rest of the chain. Not only can this flow reduce pain and increase range of motion, but with a consistent practice we can teach our muscles how to move more efficiently. Post-myofascial release, we will test our range of motion to see the instant results of the work. I recommend using this sequence as needed (daily for more limitation or few times a week for less) and holding each trigger point area for 30–60 seconds.
12 Poses for the Fascia of Your Side Body
YOU WILL NEED Two tennis balls and one block to help target the deeper fascial tissues of the muscles on the side of the body.
KEEP IN MIND These tissues hold lots of nerve endings. It’s important to recognize a good kind of pain like a dull toothache sensation and to back off if there is an acute injury, sharp pain, shooting pain or numbness. Staying relaxed is helpful while working through the points in this flow. You can soften the insertion areas by placing a blanket or towel between body and balls if needed.
Psst: Yoga Medicine founder Tiffany Cruikshank will teach at Yoga Journal LIVE San Francisco, Jan. 13-16. Get your ticket today.
About Our Expert
Allison Candelaria is a senior Yoga Medicine teacher and the owner of Soul Yoga studio in Oklahoma City, where she resides with her husband and two children. For Allison, yoga was a perfect transition from her previous dancing career and complement to her professional work in the non-profit sector. Her vinyasa flow classes are anatomically informed by years of study and uniquely incorporate myofascial release techniques to balance the mind, body and breath. She is currently working on her 1000-hour certification with Yoga Medicine where she has also had the privilege to be personally mentored by Tiffany Cruikshank herself. You can find Allison leading 200-hour trainings, teaching workshops, classes and privates in the midwest. Learn more on allisoncandelaria.com and soulyogaokc.com.