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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Monica Afesi

Very good point about lateral weakness. Too often ignored. Thanks for this insightful post.

Mary

Great info explaining how we move in a saggital plane daily and why we need to move laterally as well. Presented in an easy way to share with our class. Thanks for the anatomy diagrams to help me visualize the muscles.

Annie

Wow this is a good post and reminder, thanks !

Gilles

Vers intering to remember the stabilisation function of the muscles involved in latéral motions.

Marie-Eve Pelletier

Thanks for the recap. of the importants muscles actions of the core ! And I have now in mind that it is so important to not forget making moves in other plans than in de sagittal one for having a stronger core ! So I will integrate some poses in my classes with this target.

Myriam Goulet

Really interesting! I totally agree that those are blinds spots for so many people. Glad to know them and be able to guide my students on how to connect with them.

Jackie Wolff

This was such a well detailed look at the lateral flexors of the body. I feel like I can easily translate this ‘why’ back to my students. It’s so true that we think of our muscles in a posterior/anterior way, as that is how most anatomy books are presented. Exploring our lateral bodies makes us 3 dimensional.

Denitsa Lilova

Thank you Annelie ,
to be aware that we so dominantly moving in a sigittal plane is quite a an awaking. Really big point.

Clare Kelley

I love lateral work for its help with balance. Super interesting to see it mapped out like this.

kaoline

I have been noticing that many of the yoga practitioners in my local area also practice focusing on the movement in sagittal plane, especially deepening hip flexion, because that is the popular yoga style there. As you wrote that the lateral strength and stability supports sagittal plane movement, people need to know about how our body works as a whole. I will share this article with fellow teachers, so that we will start thinking through about how to sequence the class that truly nourishing our body and that contributes to our wellness in daily life.
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Madi

This is great, its so much more meaningful in a classroom to be able to apply the “WHY” to these seemingly-abstract postures and exercises. It’s also interesting to know which muscles act as stabilizers as well as their “text-book function”. And now I understand better why so many hate side plank!

Resi

In my Pilates and Essentrics classes I emphasis a lot the importance of the lateral line of the body. I notice that people are not so aware of this! Just what you wrote in your article that most train their backextensors of abdominals and think also in this way, not being aware you need this side line for stabilisation!

Elaine

I’m really glad I read this when I did – I was lacking inspiration for my class plan and you just gave me plenty of reasons to throw side planks in more often! We do often forget to incorporate these types of movements with all the forward folding and back bending in yoga.

Anne-Marie

I have started to talk more and more in my classes of how the daily activities in the sagital plane can cause imbalances in the body and I am increasingly devoting class time to the lateral lines of the body. I agree with you that it is so important.

Laurie

Thank you for this post as I find it an important one for my runners, especially because we do spend a lot of time moving in the sagittal plane. It’s a good reminder to be more aware of possible body blind spots on the lateral portion of our bodies and what can happen when we don’t pay enough attention to training and caring for these areas of our body.

Alyssa P

Thanks so much for this article! I don’t think I’ve given enough thought to how dominant the sagittal plane movements are in every day life. As a mother of two with chronic back pain I’m becoming more and more aware of how caring for them in their younger years has left an imprint on my body (more like “multiple imprints” that I think about it – ha ha). I definitely remember a preference to hold them on my left side because I’m left handed – and then in their early years how my back went out teaching a side plank… Read more »

jan hollander

Yes what an indebt article,and a great one to go with the ytu teacher trainer material.
For me personally very interesting because this knowledge helps me not only better understand the material from the course but for my gyrokinesis and gyrotonic teaching a gem because there is a lot of sidebents in the method

Thanks so much for writing this

Lezanne Swart

Great post Annelie! I’ve been including more lateral stretches in my yoga classes of late and I notice how beneficial that is for my students. This article has really summarised the anatomy involved beautifully and I feel I’ll be able to explain better all of the various muscle groups that are involved in the side seam of the body.

Shelly Lutz

I love this muscle mapping of the lateral portion of the body! It is pretty neglected in everyday movement and I see it in my clients as well, because of how much time they spend in the Sagittal plane as you mentioned. Just getting them to activate those lateral muscles can take a lot of work! Looking forward to reading your next post on that!

Dawn Williams

Great article. I’m in yoga tune up Level 1 training, and having almost zero knowledge of anatomy, I’m reading everything I can get hold of to understand this body I have taken around the sun nearly 65 times. I always avoided learning the anatomy “language”. I like your emphasis on the side body as it relates to our stability and strength. I look forward to your other articles.

Michele

Thanks Annelie – this is very useful to think of movement in the direction of anatomical planes and the muscles that will be predominantly overused, misused and abused due to our activities, but remembering also the anatomical plane where muscles maybe underused.

Maki

Today was 2nd day of YTU level 1 training and learned about Body blind spots. There are so much to learn about anatomy and new concepts of Yoga Tune Up. Thank you for giving me more insights to why I also disliking and avoiding some poses like side plank and half moon. About 7 years ago, I had avulsion fracture on my left ankle, since then I have been unable to balance on the left foot, and I think avoiding many of balancing poses has been creating more Body blind spots. I have 5 more days to discover my blind… Read more »

Tari Surapholn

Great reflection to overal body and this should be a basic anatomy for stability and mobility for anyone to use. If any fitness trainer , yoga teacher or others can apply these context in one exercise or flow, that would be really helpful and fun. I’ve been practiced yoga for over 10 years and I would say the more that I practice, the less overused and underused of blind spot.

Tanja

Great article that underlines the importance to also focus on our side body for skeletal stabilization!! Thank you so much for summarizing this all in one succinct article. Looking forward to part 2!!

natalie

fantastic summary of the key anatomical movers to create lateral stability – a plane of movement we don’t often build into typically linear one hour yoga class

Erica

Such a great reminder that we need to strengthen our side body for stabilization. Cant wait to read part 2. Thank you for this anatomy breakdown, it was completely digestible.

Bonnie Bloom

I had never really understand the side body or what it did. this is a game changer. I have been working on my poor balance and not made the progress I wanted. I have a new place to work and study my body. thankyou. the Gall Bladder meridien from chinese Medicine runs in a zig zag pattern all along these areas and people who have a blocked GB meridien are known to be clumsy or clutzy. No coincidence there, I see now.

Carolyn

You’re right, the way we live day in and day out is so focused in the saggital plane we forget we even have side bodies! Stretching and strengthening the lateral line is so important! Thanks for a great article!

Judi

Great anatomy refresher and information. You bring up many interesting points. Thanks for an interesting article, Annelie!

Louise LeGouis

As one of those students who used to be averse to vasisthasana, I can attest that strengthening laterals can open up the door to many yoga poses and overall strength and stability. Great details and graphics. Thanks

natalie greene

this concept of body blind spots is not knew to me as a yoga teacher but the lexicon is and it makes so much sense to talk in terms of “body blind spots” ; an easy way to explain to younger athletes especially the need to build lateral strength and stability especially related to sports that lack lateral movement especially ankles and knees.

Christine

Thanks! Most people don’t realize the amount of bias we place on the sagittal plane during training especially in aesthetic sports. Bringing sights back from what we see in the mirror to a more 360 holistic view of the body will help people create true muscular balance (not just aesthetic) and enable them to continue doing what they love for a lifetime.

Taylor

The concept of body blindspots is something very new to me. However it really is very clear that when you live in a fairly routine way for years of your life, those same muscles will be the ones to continuously fire and be used. Many injuries are probably caused by our bodies compensating with muscles we do frequently use instead of using the “blind spots” because the blind spots are so weak. It also helps us to explore our body to use muscles that we probably have never known how to activate.

Katrina Sukola

I recently did a yoga class that was focused on the coronal plane. I reminded me how much of our daily life and habits are spent in the sagittal plane. With an overused and abused left shoulder, I avoid or dislike upper body actions such as vasisthasana (side plank) on the left. I’ll be following up with Part II for strengthening and lengthening moves for the side of the body.

Jolene

I never really considered lack of lateral movement in everyday life. I’ve become very aware of my quadratus lumborum in relation to low back pain and have been using the therapy balls to release tension here.

Donna Layton

Can’t wait to read Part 2!

Emily Botel

I had pain in my side for a couple years due to one of those rude awakenings in yoga before YTU helped me realize it was one of my “blind spot” lateral stabilizers, my serratus anterior. Thank you for this indepth look at the anatomy of the lateral stabilizers!

Charlene Lowe

Thank you for this article. Your thoroughness in describing the use of the lateral muscles is much appreciated as a practicing yogi and a yoga teacher.

Alyse

Great article full of truth. Bringing awareness to body blind spots is the first step to restoring balance and making sure no muscles are forgotten.

Haley Bevers

I totally can relate to blind spots and I love this work because it helps you find you blindspots.

Mira

Thanks for so clearly laying out all of the MM involved in the lateral stability plane. Helpful article.

Kammy Fung

Totally need to place attention to the gluteus minimums and medius since I don’t want to walk like a penguin. I don’t know the profound of the lateral muscles can affect movement pattern before reading this artical. Thank for the imnformation

Angela Yonkovich

I thoroughly enjoyed your article. I have scoliosis and I remember the first time I learned the importance of practicing Vasisthasana for my condition and realizing why one side of my Vasisthasana was much stronger than the other!
Thank you-your article was very informative!

Rachelle Hertle

I love the diagrams added to this blog. You’ve made it easy to understand both with your text and visual aids. My side body was certainly neglected and I enjoy bringing that knowledge to my students. You’ve certainly helped affirm that I need to keep it going.

Sharon Nikolai

Thank you! This is a great read and great reminder to explore and use those lateral stabilizers!
I have shared it to my fb page so my clients can read it too!!

Kate Clark

Thank you for this article. I’m working on my Level 1 Certification final homework assignments now, and this was a great refresher!

Rita Chow

I couldn’t agree more on what you’ve said in this article. Even thou it seems like we seldom initiate movement from our lateral side in daily activities, those muscles are silently helping out. And the neglectance will often cause body imbalance and pain. I can’t wait for part 2! Thanks!

Ashley Burger

I love the idea of body blind spots. Working with dancers I have realized this is their adductors and abductors as everything is externally rotated and dealing with flexion and extension. Doing a class dedicated to these muscle groups left them sore for days and with a new found appreciation for these muscle groups that typically work as stabilizers.

Phoebe

It is so true!!! The first time I rolled on my side muscles, it was like WOW! maybe thats the first time i work on them. Other muscles must already be overcompensating them. The feedback was strong and I will never forget to work on the side in the future.

Shari Williams

great article. i noticed when i was creating a side body class, how little we pay attention to this side seam! i really laughed when i was putting on lotion and realized i put it on front and back but often neglect my sides! so now i pay more attention 🙂