Body blind spots are areas in the body that are overused, underused, misused, abused or confused. We all have them, but we usually need help from someone else in order to become aware of their existence. As a Yoga Tune Up® teacher it’s my job to help create an awareness of body blind spots and to increase the understanding about how to best attend to them. A very common body blind spot among my students is the lateral portion of the body, which manifest as a lack of strength, limited range of motion, poor balance or pain in the lumbar spine or in the knees.

There are several causes to why the so called outer seam can be a troublesome area. One of the most common, is the fact that we tend to move primarily in the sagittal plane (walking, running, biking, skiing etc.). Another common cause, particularly for women, is carrying or holding babies on one hip while doing something else with the dominant arm. Something than can accumulate during the early years and result in an uneven wear and tear of the body.

Anyone that’s looked at an anatomy chart or in an anatomy book is familiar with the idea of anterior and posterior muscle groups. In real life however, several of these muscles as well as the fascial web, wrap around the sides of the body. Serratus anterior, the transverse abdominals, the internal and external obliques, as well as gluteus medius and minimus are examples of muscles that wrap around from front to back or back to front. Any one of them, or maybe all of them can be underused or misused, which can lead to some surprising or rude awakening moments in a yoga class. Often it also results in disliking or avoiding poses like vasisthasana (side plank), ardha chandrasana (half moon) or similar movements that require lateral strength, stability and mobility.

Since most of our daily activities depend on movement in a sagittal plane it’s tempting to think that flexion and extension is what we need to focus on in order to keep our back, shoulders and hips happy. The truth however, is that you need lateral strength in order to keep these areas healthy and to avoid unnecessary deterioration. Serratus anterior, which originates on the external surfaces of the upper eight or nine ribs and inserts on the anterior surface of the medial border of the scapulae is an important muscle to stabilize around the shoulder, especially when weight bearing. The transverse abdominals and the internal and external obliques originate on the lower ribs or the thoracolumbar fascia and the iliac crest and insert on the abdominal aponeurosis, making them important lateral stabilizers for the lumbar spine. Another important stabilizer for the lumbar spine is the quadratus lumborum, which originates on the posterior iliac crest and inserts on the last rib and on the transverse processes of the 1st-4th lumbar vertebrae.

The final, but equally important group of lateral stabilizers are the gluteus medius and minimus. They originate on the ilium below the iliac crest and insert on the lateral and anterior aspects of the greater trochanter. Their actions in the anatomy books are hip abduction, external rotation and hip flexion but in everyday life we use them primarily as hip stabilizers when walking or running. This means that a strong gluteus medius and minimus can help us “keep a pep in our step” and avoid shuffling like a penguin.


If you are interested in trying some of my favorite moves for strengthening and lengthening the side of the body stay tuned for part two!

Liked this article? Read Feeling Powerful With Your Serratus Anterior

Annelie Alexander

1973 - 2021. Annelie was a respected member of our YTU Teaching Team up until the time of her passing. She is greatly missed by those whose lives she touched. Luckily, her work lives on. Annelie was the only Integrated Yoga Tune Up® teacher and Roll Model® method practitioner in Scandinavia & northern Europe. She worked in health promotion for 20 years and was offering Yoga Tune Up® classes and private sessions in Stockholm, Sweden. Annelie was dedicated to helping individuals or groups improve their health and well being through exercise and movement that was safe, effective and fun.

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Denise Brown

This is very interesting to think about these “blind spots”. I think this is important in any field of movement education. This is a great reminder to encourage the awareness of the range of motion not only in the trunk but also in what is referred to as the entire “outside seams of the body”.

Genevieve

So true how much we do function in the sagittal plane! I also loved all your descriptive words for blind spots 🙂 It makes sense too, poses we wish to avoid given how it feels in the body and how to lean into that discomfort of the blind spot in order to create more space and strength.

Germain

I liked your text on the importance of diversity and different directions to give to our movements in everyday life for better proprioception and health!

Stephanie Gauthier

This article is a reminder of how important it is to strengthen the body in all planes. Thank you!

Morgan

I just took the YTU teacher training and discovered my lateral strength, particularly obliques and serratus anterior, is my body blind spot. Glad to know I’m not the only one. Now I’m equipped with the knowledge and tools to help correct my imbalance.

Jennifer Reuter

I like the metaphor for the glute medius keeping a pep in our step! Thank you for sharing

Stephanie Aldrich

Such a good reminder that we need to work the entire body in order to move with maximum function!

Toni Dee

Thanks Annalie for this well written and anatomically thorough article.
Yes, Lateral poses are a great way to turn on your “tubular core” from all angles. Giving us more support in our daily lives.
I’ve found that lateral holds, especially the side plank where the person is on one arm, can really help to strengthen and integrate the shoulder girdle and the Serratus Anterior to the core, which as you mentioned, are also lateral stabilizers.
Let’s Keep doing them at all ages!

RAUL

Excellente article Annelie, stunning about your comment about it, we tend to move primarly the Sagittal Plane and is true, althought Trsansversal plane is lack of movility on daily common movements and aware about it, i recommend use stairs regularly and make turns with all the whole body no just neck for activate frontal movements also.

Barbara Resendiz

Its true , its very common to pay all our attention to the abdominal rectus and to do lots of crunches , but we forget about the neighbor muscles that also are very important like the lats. Thanks for sharing !

Matty Espino

I completely agree that we can learn so much and improve the sustainability of the body by offering more focus on the lateral side . The focus on the sagittal plane through all sorts of activities in my opinion has led to tremendous underuse of the side body. I love to bringing awareness to areas such as the serratus anterior, obligues, etc in my teaching in order to promote better stability, which is why I love teaching poses such as side plank and half moon as the article suggests.

Rob

I love targetting these lateral movements in my classes. As you mentioned in the article at first students HATE it, and avoid the poses, but i have seen overtime many have grown to actually love these poses that target the side body

Freia Ramsey

I have found personally that one of my blind spots has been in the imbalance in my QL muscles. Although I discovered this through proper alignment in a twist, it is now very evident in lateral movements as well. It’s helpful though to remember, as you pointed out, that none of these muscles works alone, and we have to take in the big picture as well as the individual muscles to create balance and harmony in our bodies.

Jacqueline Matthews

Right side plank has been a nemesis for me, once I started to strengthen my lateral muscles, obliques, gluteus and transverse abdominals, right side plank has become my friend. Also, I have found adding lots of lateral movement into my workouts has changed my ability to create more room in my body such as opening my chest in a twist

Melanie

I really enjoyed this article and have personal experience with body blind spots. I think sometimes that our blind spots can prevent us from activating some of the muscles described in this article that wrap around the body and are utilized in lateral flexion. For example, I have overused muscles in my neck instead of engaging my serratus anterior. Being able to recognize and access these muscles even when we realize that they are a blind spot takes a lot effort and deliberate work to strengthen and release the particular blind spot depending on th circumstance.

Mélanie Ouellet

I think the elderly customers with loss of balance on the sides will absolutely strengthen these muscles mentioned in this text to prevent falls.

Kristin Kandyba

Interesting points. While I like to practice the lateral poses mentioned, otherwise I do do a lot of sagittal plane activities such as running, and I know my glute min and med need more strengthening. On to the follow up article!

June Barton

This is a very interesting article. When I teach poses like Half Moon, Side Plank and other lateral movements, I noticed that a lot of my students have difficulty doing them, some of them them give up easily. At first I thought they just were not interested at all, I myself enjoy these poses a lot. I am now realizing that prom they need to strengthen those neglected/underused /overused muscles, those blind spots they never knew about. I am very excited to impart this to my students.

Cindy Côté

Thanks again learned a lot with this article

kim

It makes so much sense, I’m definitively gonna keep that in mind! …And also keep focusing on lateral strengh. Thank you

Katie Fogelson

Building lateral strength can be such a game changer! I’ve seen my clients make a lot of progress on single leg work, once they were able to access their glute medius/minimus and actually feel their entire core, not just the “six pack”.

Fiona

This article was basically talking about me. I had so many blind spots and l hated side planks the most . But I have recently started to realise that the more l move the strong my blind spots reduce. But l still have a long way and l will take this information to heart.

Alice

I try to include lots of lateral strengthening movements and postures in my classes because they feel so good in my body. I also think it’s refreshing for the mind and body to switch out of the sagittal plane!

Suzanne O'Donnell

My “baby” is now 14 years old and i feel like i’m still rebuilding my body from those early years (and finally have some time to devote to it). I’m grateful to YTU for so many tools, knowledge and awarenesses.

Jill

This info is a great reminder to include more frontal plane movements in yoga class. Change up Sun Salutations to include side plank, stepping up into half moon, etc.. varied movement to increase strength all over!

Sunee

In thinking about how these muscle groups are used in daily activities, I was struggling to come up with examples, until I actually tried it! Now upon deeper reflection I’m so curious how I never connected this realization before. Guess it was a major blind spot for me too. But no more!

BEVERLYN

I definitely see students struggle with poses and movements that require lateral strength, which is one of the reasons I incorporate a decent amount of it in my classes. Creating or finding the functionality in yoga poses can be tricky, but it’s not impossible, and I find that a lot of my students express feeling much better especially when we focus on glute strengthening.

BEVERLYN

I definitely see students struggle with poses and movements that require lateral strength, which is one of the reasons I incorporate a decent amount of it in my classes. Creating or finding the functionality in yoga poses can be tricky, but it’s not impossible, and I find that a lot of my students express feeling much better especially when we focus on glute strengthening.

nic matthews

thanks Annelie, great post. I can certainly relate to avoiding or disliking certain poses, as I suffer from ‘gluteal amnesia’.

Emily Whitaker

I’m looking forward to reading part 2 of this article. As a mom that holds my 2 year old on one hip while doing everything with my right arm, Im guilty of having not only instability in my lateral strength, but also a severe imbalance from right to left side. I’m currently in the YTU training and was shocked at how hard side plank was for me when done with proper care to the alignment clues Jill gives towards the lateral malleolus of the base leg.

diana

Thank you – f course I avoid poses that are difficult to manage. Without these side muscles, I suspect I’ll just continue to groan my way into my senior years. These will be my focus for the rest of the training this week.

Colleen Flaherty

I really appreciate the depth of anatomy you provided in this article Annelie! It helps the reader understand just how intricate and complex the human body is and also the importance of giving our side bodies more attention! The fact that knee and lumbar pain is/can be related to lateral strength, mobility, and stability is something every teacher/coach needs to understand. You’re right, we can’t just practice the forward, backward, up, down exercises. You make the point so clearly for a multi-plane practice for better health! Thank you!