Stretching Sideways

In these stretches you extend the whole of the spine to the side, so keeping your hips and spine flexible. It is a movement you should practise regularly, especially since as you get older you don’t move like this often in your daily activities.

The firm stretch of the legs allows the lower spine to release, relieving low backache. At the same time outstretched arms and the extension of the back of the neck keep the upper spine mobile.

If your hips are stiff when you start to practise, you may try to go down too far, bending from the waist instead of from the hips. Your trunk will then drop forward and you will lose the sideways stretch in the lower back. In order to get used to the correct stretch in the hips and lower back, practise the ‘less stretch’ positions as these will also help you with the correct alignment of this position.

  1. Stand tall and stretch up through your spine. With your feet together, spread out your toes and pull up from your arches. Pull up your kneecaps and stretch your whole spine. Extend your neck and relax your face.
  2. Take your feet 1m (3ft) apart, keeping them parallel. Maintain the lift of your spine so that your chest is open and your shoulders are relaxed. Stretch out your arms, with the palms of your hands facing the floor.
  3. Turn your right foot slightly in and your left leg out to the side, lining up your left heel with the arch of your right foot. Pull up your kneecaps. Breathing out, move your hips to the right and extend your spine sideways to the left.
  4. Keep your tailbone well tucked in, tighten the muscles underneath your buttocks and really stretch sideways, until your left hand rests behind your left leg. Turn your head and look up at your outstretched fingers. Breathe normally and hold the position for up to 30 seconds. Come up breathing in, repeat on the other side!

The Sideways ‘Less Stretch’

The stiffer you are, the more important it is to get a good stretch before you go sideways. The stretches on this page will release stiffness, especially in the hips. If you have the sensation of dropping forwards, practise with your back against a wall.

First stretch

Place a chair to your right. Take your feet about lm (3ft) apart and stretch your arms out. Turn your left fool slightly in, your right leg out. Put your left hand on your hip and stretch to the right without dropping forwards. Keep your chest open and really stretch your lower spine. Hold for a few seconds. Breathe in and come up. Repeat on the other side.

Second stretch

Stand tall and stretch up through your spine. Take your feet 1 m (3ft) apart and stretch out your arms. Turn your left foot slightly in and your right leg out. Breathe out and put your right hand on your leg. Stretching to the right without bending forwards. Hold for a few seconds, breathe in, come up. Repeat on the other side.

Stretching Sideways – More Stretch

This exhilarating stretch increases flexibility in the hips and spine and tones the muscles in the abdomen and legs.

The intense stretch along the upper side of the body loosens the shoulders while the expansion in the chest is good for breathing.

  1. Take your feet about 1.5m (4-1/2ft) apart. Turn your right foot in and your left leg out to the side, turning your left thigh out at the hip and pulling up your kneecaps.
  2. Keep your right leg firm while you bend your left knee to a right angle. This should be done by lowering your hips so that your left thigh runs parallel to the floor.
  3. Breathe out and extend your trunk along your left thigh, taking your left hand down behind your foot and pressing your left knee back against your armpit. Stretch out your right arm over your right ear. Extend your spine to the left. Keep your right shoulder back and look up. Breathe normally as you hold for 20 seconds, then breathe in, come up and repeat on the other side.