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Yoga Yogi: Standing Side Stretch

Here's a look at the Standing Side Stretch. Along with twisting, forward flexion, and backward extension, this exercise facilitates the basic movements of the spine. These movements are foundational in the development of a strong and supple spine, an essential ingredient for a long and happy relationship with your drum kit.

The Standing Side Stretch, sometimes called the Half Moon Pose, increases the strength and flexibility of the rectus abdominus, lattisimus dorsi, obligue, deltoid, and trapezius muscles. It also improves your respiration. This is an invigorating stretch, so let’s get started.

1. Stand tall with your feet hips-distance apart and parallel. (You can vary the distance of your feet.)

2. Bring your right hand to the side of your right thigh. As you inhale, stretch the left arm overhead.

3. As you exhale, slowly slide down the side of the right leg. Keep reaching up and out through the left arm, stretching open the whole left side of the body.

4. Keep the hips and shoulders square to the front. Do not allow the body to twist or torque to the side.

5. Hold the stretch for several smooth and even breaths and repeat on the other side. Do three or four sets.

Keep in mind the importance of stretching slowly. It’s common for new students to stretch as far as possible for as long as they can, even if they are experiencing pain, hoping to attain maximum flexibility in one yoga session. The idea is to only stretch far enough to release tension. If you stretch too far you can create more tension, and if you don’t stretch far enough you won’t release the accumulated tension – you have to find the sweet spot.

The quality of your breathing is a good indicator of whether to deepen the stretch or back off. If you breath is short, fast, and labored, you are probably straining and pushing too far (read this as rushing). On the other hand, full, smooth, and calm breathing tends to relax the body and mind allowing the stretch to deepen without strain or effort (read this as pocket).

Remember that you’re not training to become a contortionist, you’re learning to release the tension that may inhibit fluid expression. A strong, supple spine is the platform for that fluid expression, so be ready for that magical, effortless flow to arise.

As always, check with your physician to ensure these exercises are appropriate for you.

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