Often, we cheat when bending from side to side, and we don't get the full benefit from this dynamic stretch. Holding a block between your hands will help to target your side torso muscle more effectively in this side bend.
1. Stand upright on a flat, level surface with your feet together. Grasp a yoga block between your hands. Be sure that the block is between the palms of your hands and not just your fingers. Straighten your arms so the block is above your head and your upper arms are near your ears. Point your fingertips up and relax your shoulders away from your ears.
2. On an inhalation, firmly squeeze the block with both hands as you lean your torso to the left. Concentrate on keeping equal weight over both feet, with your tailbone pointing down toward your heels. Be sure your abdominal muscles are pulled in toward your spine to support your lower back.
Turn your head to the right and look up slightly. Remember to keep your arms straight and move them slightly back so your upper arms are near your ears. Pause in the stretch and continue to breathe fully as you focus on reaching up with your fingertips and down with your tailbone. On an inhalation, return to center, exhale and repeat on the other side.
Alternate sides until you have performed it three times on each side. Gradually you'll be able to increase your range of motion with each side bend.
Voight is the creator of a line of fitness DVDs, including "Full Body Stretch" and "Ballet BodySculpt."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun