Spinal Movements Sequence (Part 17): The ‘Side-spine Lengthening Sequence’ (Parsvakona vinyâsa)

Simon Borg-Olivier in Parsva san calanasana - photo courtesy Mads Becker Joergensen

Simon Borg-Olivier in Parsva san calanasana – photo courtesy Mads Becker Joergensen

This video is Part 17 of a YogaSynergy Spinal Movements Sequence taught by physiotherapist and Director of Yoga Synergy, Simon Borg-Olivier, which he teaches in person in courses throughout the world as well as Online in courses at RMIT University  and Online in courses at YogaSynergy called Yoga Fundamentals and Applied Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga.

In this part, Simon Borg-Olivier begins to explain a series of standing postures that all have the front leg with hip flexion and the rear leg in hip extension. This segment focuses on the ‘Side-spine Lengthening Sequence’ (Parsvakona vinyâsa), which includes the ‘Side-spine lengthening posture’ (Utthita parsvakonâsana) and the ‘Twisted side-spine lengthening sequence’ (Parivrtta parsvakonâsana).

Video Transcript and Notes:

Now I demonstrate a series of postures that all relate to extension (‘backward bending’), flexion (‘forward bending’), side movements (lateral flexion) and twisting (axial rotation) movements of the spine while using hip extension on one leg and hip flexion on the other.

The ‘Side-spine Lengthening Sequence’ (Parsvakona Vinyâsa):

Adho Mukha San Calanasana:

Again I flex the spine and move the head down, lengthening the femoral nerve and lengthening the front of the left hip.

Utthita Parsvakonasana:

Taking the left heel to the floor allows me to lift the left side of the lower back. I ‘stretch’ the mat with the feet (push my sitting bones apart), which activates the hip flexor muscles (hip flexors) on the right side, spinal flexors, and hip extensors on the left side, and spinal extensors. Then I’m going to make a side bending movement of the spine so I use pressure from my right sitting bone to push towards the left side of my mat where my navel is pointing. That gives me abdominal firmness (it activates my rectus abdominis). Then I breathe into the abdomen to give calmness.

I take my left arm forward and up towards the head. Depressing my right shoulder closer towards the right hip helps create a lateral flexion of my spine to the right side. At the same time when I bring my hand down that tractions or tensions (‘stretches’) the median nerve of the right brachial plexus and also the pericardial acupuncture meridian. The left arm moves with the shoulder towards the chest and past the ear. This tractions the left side of my spine. This way now the blood is moving from the right side of my trunk to the left side. The right side of my trunk is firmer and more compressed and the left side is lengthened and more relaxed. So the blood will always flow from high pressure (right side) to low pressure (left side). With a diaphragmatic breath throughout the practice helps keeps me calm (and it helps to relax the muscles on the left side of my trunk).

Utthita San Calanasana:

Before standing up I push the hips forward. Squeezing the left buttocks helps relax the left groin and tighten the back of the body. Pushing the hips forward (from the sitting bones) tightens the front of the body. As I stand up I am conscious to not let the spine extend (bend backwards). The more the spine extends in this movement the less the left hip lengthens. I could lift my head in this position but the head lifting is usually associated with spinal extension. So keeping the head down tends to prevents that spinal extension.

Parivrtta San Calanasana:

I’m going to do an active twist to the right side. Active twist means that I turn with the volition of the spine itself. I’m twisting to the right side. To help that happen I am pushing the right sitting bone forward, left armpit forward in the direction that the left armpit is facing and the right sitting bone is facing in terms of where the navel is pointing. Then I assist that movement by moving my left elbow further to the right and my right knee further to the left. (This activates the right inner thigh muscles (hip adductors), the left inner armpit muscles (shoulder adductors), and the muscles that actively twist the spine to teh right side). This reciprocally relaxes the outer right thigh muscles (hip adductors) and the outer left shoulder muscles (shoulder abductors) (and it also reciprocally relaxes the trunk muscles that want to turn the spine to the left side). The spinal movement uses the muscles which connect the different parts of the spine, and they help stabilise the spine but they also release (inhibit or relax) the muscles that are not needed.

Parivrtta Parsvakonasana:

Then I come into a simple version of the pose and here I could stay, but because I am a bit more flexible now (because of the active way I came into the posture) I slide my shoulder past the knee and my hand to the floor. Still my right hip is trying to move forward my right knee is going to the left side. I can lift my left knee up and the right arm. Here it’s a strong twist so I could protect my spine from possible damage by tightening all the muscles in my trunk. But if I do that will make it very hard to breathe naturally (and for blood to floor easily). So instead I simply push the right hip forward and left armpit forward (as well as actively keep twisting or rotating my spine to the right side) and that gives me a firmness (core stability) that still allows me to use my diaphragm, which keeps me calm. Moving my right knee to the left, left armpit to the right actually allows the muscles on the outside of the hip and shoulder to relax more. It means it feels less like a stretch and more like a movement. Then I can safely come out of the pose and come back to the fingers next to the heels in a lunge.

In a more developed version of this method that is not shown in the video you can actually also actively side-bend and forward-bend the spine as well as actively twisting it before bending forward at the hips. When you do this the natural core stabilisation that takes place is even more powerful and even though can usually go just as far into the posture it does not feel like a stretch, yet you are calm and very warm. Working with ‘active movements’ in this way allows you to get flexible without feeling a stretch, get strong without feeling tense, get relaxed without having to lie on your back, and make blood flow so you get warm and bring oxygen to your cells but without having to make your heart beat faster or your breathing rate increase.

You can see a demonstration of the the entire sequence by clicking here

You can see Part 16 of the instructional videos of the sequence by clicking here

If you want to learn more from YogaSynergy and its Directors Simon Borg-Olivier MScBAppSc(Physiotherapy) and Bianca Machliss BScBAppSc(Physiotherapy) you can enrol in one of our comprehensive and award winning Online courses at YogaSynergy called Yoga Fundamentals (a very practical course for anyone with an interest in yoga, exercise or health) and Applied Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga (a more technical course for teachers, therapists and experienced students). You can also do the more advanced version of these courses online at RMIT University as part of a Masters of Wellness Degree or as part of most bachelor degrees from participating Universities throughout the world.

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