Side Bending Is Ancient History

side bending obeliskOh, don’t get me wrong…

Side bending is NOT gone with the wind. However, today we’re absolutely looking at it as a thing of the past.

Stay with me now…

When we talk about mindful movement, we talk about being fully present in our practice – not dwelling in the past (or pining for the future).

Yet, that doesn’t mean that we can’t, and shouldn’t, regard the past when contemplating our practice.  In fact, the past can serve us up a beneficial dish of obstacle-shattering inspiration.

If we’re paying attention, history can teach us many lessons.

The rise and fall of civilizations, and how to look at socio-economic power and responsibility.

Communion with mother nature, and how to not only live off, but WITH, the land.

Physical culture, and how it relates to quality of life.

And the list goes on.

Even though we may be more technologically advanced than those that came before us, many would argue that it doesn’t necessarily make as all the wiser for it.

After all, history does tend to repeat itself… for better or for worse.

The History of Side Bending

history of side bendingHa!  No. Sorry.

We’ll save the entertaining quip on The History Of Side Bending for Mel Brooks’ guest post (fingers crossed).

However, I do like to relay a little bit of ancient history to my clients when working through side bending.

Lateral movement, in particular, the rotational quality of the rolling degree of freedom, has many benefits… especially in our chair-bear day and age.

The story of side bending for many that I come across tends to be one of funky complication.  It’s usually an unfamiliar spectrum of movement, and one that presents with fear, frustration and compensation.

In session, we like to work side bending from a 3-tiered perspective:

  • Neck / Cervical Spine
  • Ribs / Thoracic Spine
  • Pelvis / Lumbar Spine

We can certainly color in the stuff that lies between, but those are our 3 major sign posts.  With side bending (at any tier, or all three), we’re looking to open up that lateral line from the shackles of superfluous tension, increase range of motion and quality of performance, free up breathing, and bring some relief to neck and back (just to name a few).

However, many of us miss the mark when traversing (or simply attempting to) this often unfamiliar spectrum by working too hard, tipping our hat to the aforementioned fear, frustration and disjointed nature of compensating segments.  And suddenly, welcomed effort and stress becomes unwanted strain.

What tends to produce a bit more understanding with the movement is a relation to a little ancient history…

Side Bending Lessons From Ancient Egypt

The civilization of Ancient Egypt stands as a dynamo of its time.  Reflecting on it now, we can only marvel at some of the feats they pulled off.  Some of what they engineered (from all walks of life) is pretty mind-boggling for an ancient, and “less sophisticated”, civilization.

Even though we don’t “know” how they did all of what they did, we can pull a pretty nice side bending analogy from their supposed method of obelisk erection.

An ancient obelisk, for those who aren’t familiar, is a four sided, monolithic stone, that tapers off to a pyramid like apex, and is said to represent a petrified ray of the sun-disk, symbolic of the sun-god, Ra.  The largest one in ancient times is purported to have weighed 455 tons!

Egyptian Side BendingThe theory on obelisk erection, as presented in experimentation by Rick Brown, Hopkins, Lehner and Gregg Mullen, goes a little something like this…

Instead of using an INSANE amount of man power to fight gravity and force the obelisk into erection, the structure was erected a bit more in accord with the desire of the earth.

To begin, the obelisk is laid flat on a gravel and stone ramp. A pit in the middle is filled with dry sand, secured by stone walls. Men raised the obelisk by slowly removing the sand while other crews of men pulled on ropes to control its descent into the pit. The back wall was designed to guide the obelisk into its proper place.  Gravity did most of the work until the final few degrees had to be completed by pulling the obelisk forward. Brake ropes were used to make sure the obelisk didn’t fall forward.

The theory seems to be supported by a 3,000-year-oldpapyrus scroll in which one scribe taunts another to erect a monument for “thy lord”. The scroll reads “Empty the space that has been filled with sand beneath the monument of thy Lord.”

So, how does obelisk erection exactly advise side bending???

No worries.  This post isn’t taking a dirty turn…

If you haven’t already started connecting some of the dots – removing structure, playing into gravity, using the core for breaking, etc –  fear not.

As it turns out, I’ve pulled out a snippet of membership content to give you a clearer visual:

When frist trying to learn or groove in a movement (or a new ANYTHING), it’s adviseable to look to those that have come before us, to see the struggles they’ve gone through and the methods that brought them success.

And just as the ancients looked to nature for inspiration when building their landscape and social underpinnings, we too can look to their marvelous methods of engineering (in this case) to inspire our movement.

If you’re down with discussing side bending, ancient history – and even ANCIENT ALIENS – hit me up below :-)

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13 Responses to Side Bending Is Ancient History

  1. Steve May 10, 2012 at 4:05 am #

    Awesome post! I have always ad issues with the side bend. I will most definitely put this info to good use!

    • John Belkewitch May 10, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

      Thanks, Steve! Side bend is troublesome for many of us. Let me know how you make out with it.

  2. David Wood May 10, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

    I think I was seeing ancient aliens about midway through those “wall push-aways” (side bends) you had us doing last night.

  3. Renee May 10, 2012 at 10:22 pm #

    As usual, John, I appreciate your very instructive videos. And I really enjoyed this post’s creative ancient history tie-in. (Always wondered how they built those fracking things!) Anyway, I look forward to practicing this movement sequence, particularly the thoracic part. Your mobility is inspirational!

    • John Belkewitch May 11, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

      I LOVE ancient history. Took a few different ancient cultural courses in college, one of which happened to be on Ancient Egyptian art.

      Total tangent, but by your use of the work ‘fracking’ I’d guess that you’re a Battlestar Galactica fan, no? Or are you just a fan of the phrase, lol? I’m a big fan of BSG.

      • Renee May 11, 2012 at 4:51 pm #

        Lol, I’m just a fan of the word (seems more polite than the word I’m substituting it for), and to be honest I never knew it’s origin.

        Not really a BSG fan, but I *am* a nerd of the highest order — if by being 41 years old and continuing to play World of Warcraft counts as nerdy. ;-)

  4. Paul M May 11, 2012 at 12:45 am #

    Really fantastic, John! This kind of movement is so important. Your videos are great – please keep ‘em coming!!

    • John Belkewitch May 11, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

      Thanks, Paul :-) Hope things are going well in your neck of the woods…

  5. Paul M May 11, 2012 at 11:01 pm #

    Thanks, John. I won’t retract my previous comment but I must say, after doing these movements, I’m sore as hell! I do joint mobility almost daily; so I’m very surprised at how sore I am. However, I’m certain it’s not the movements but the fact that I should’ve done them progressively/incrementally. Hey I am not a teenager anymore! never ending lesson learned ONCE AGAIN! Best to you, John

    • John Belkewitch May 12, 2012 at 7:31 pm #

      The process is continual, Paul. Agreed. There’s always something new to learn if we’re in the moment and contemplative. Like you mentioned, it may not necessarily be the movements, themselves, but how (frequency, duration, technique, exertion, etc.) the movements are employed. But, if they are unfamiliar to your daily practice, then that may be one reason why your body’s talking back at ya. Soreness = OK. Pain = NO WAY.

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