Expanding Your Inhalation With
The Side Line
Why Is The Side Line Important?
The Side Line is supremely important for good breathing, spinal stability and good posture. When the Side Line is tight, it limits the expansion of your inhalation. When it is imbalanced from one side of your body to the other, it throws the hips out of line with the pelvis which also limits the range that the lungs can expand.
What is the Side Line?
The Side Line is a meridian of several muscles connected together along the side of the body from the outside of the foot all the way to the neck. It is known as the "Great Stabilizer" of our body, mediating between left-right imbalances such as side shifting of the hips or in spinal curvatures of scoliosis. It holds the leg, pelvis and trunk steady during movements involving the legs or arms and is key for any kind of balancing on one leg (which we do constantly!)
Where is the Side Line in the Body?
This is adapted from Tom Meyer's Anatomy Trains work, what he calls the Lateral Line". Two structures, presented below have particular impact upon breathing, the Quadratus Lumborum and the Intercostal Muscles
Waist and Rib Cage:
The three muscles mentioned above merge their tissues with the fascia of the Internal and External Obliques, the Intercostals and the Quadratus Lumborum. Of particular importance are the Intercostals and Quadratus Lumborum. There appears to be debate on whether the intercostals, which weave themselves through the ribcage, affect breathing or not. However, a recent scientific study on stretching the intercostals and breathing volume found that stretching the intercostals resulted in a slower, deeper breathing pattern with increased activity of the diaphragm. They discovered that stretching the intercostals may alter the breathing patterns sufficiently to improve gas exchange in patients with pulmonary disorders.
Here is the interesting part: it has to be done while you are breathing in!
Foot, Thigh and Hip Abductors:
The Side Line begins in the sole of the foot and wraps around as the Peroneal Muscles- which connect the inner and outer arch of foot and influences overall ability to balance on the foot. These then merge into the Iliotibial Band (IT Band) along the outside of the thigh and up to the hip at the greater trochanter. The IT Band is constantly active as it holds the thighbone in the hip joint as we shift our weight from one leg to the other such as in walking. If it is in a weak or imbalanced condition, this can lead to knee problems as well. The Side Line then flows out of the IT band into three muscle groups: the Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL), Gluteus Maximus and Gluteus Medius.
Same thing goes with the Quadratus Lumborum. The QL is sitting in back of the abdominal wall connecting the iliac crest of the hip to the 12th rib. We have two, one on each side of the spine. It is involved in stabilization and movement of the spine and pelvis and holding the ribs down when you inhale. Again if one QL is tighter than the other side, you will have a distorted posture and poor breathing. If both are tight, well, it essentially holds back the expansion of the ribcage. Stretch it when you are inhaling!
Finally the Side Line moves up into the neck to support the head and giving stability in the upper body for the arms and shoulders to move freely. This occurs through the SCM and the Splenius Capitis. If the Side Line is too weak to support the head, such as when there is a forward head posture, the burden falls upon the shoulder muscles of the upper back (Upper Trapezius, Levator Scapulae and so on) which also impact breathing
The Side Line and Energy Channels
We associate the left and right Side Lines with two energy lines described in yoga called the Moon and Sun channel respectively. These channels are intricately linked to the nasal cycles and switching between the parasympathetic and sympathetic aspects of the nervous system. This is an extensive topic which goes deep into the practices of Swara Yoga as well as how we sequence yoga postures.
Key Postures and Breathwork
Standing poses where the balance on the foot is emphasized- particularly grounding through the outer heel while lifting the inner arch of the foot. Side stretching, Banana, Ardha Chandrasana, Parsvakonasana and doing abduction while in forward bends. Pranayama practices such as Surya Bheda (only inhaling through right nostril) or Chandra Bheda (inhaling only through left nostil) can be experimented with to enhance energy flow on one side only.