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21 Yoga Poses to Improve Your Flexibility

by Jessica Hegg March 31, 2020 0 Comments



If you’ve always wanted to practice yoga but didn’t know where to begin, yoga for flexibility is a great place to start. Contrary to popular belief, yoga is not reserved for only flexible people who wear expensive pants. It’s an inclusive exercise, perfect for beginners, that uses your body to stretch and strengthen your muscles and mind.

Benefits of Yoga

Most people know that yoga can improve your flexibility and strengthen your body. But people who practice home yoga regularly enjoy both mental and physical gains. See some of yoga’s greatest benefits here:

  • Improves your range of motion
  • Reduces stress and tension
  • Enhances body awareness
  • Boosts circulation
  • Protects from injury
  • Relieves anxiety and stress   

Yoga Poses for Flexibility

Flexibility takes time and practice. It’s not something that happens overnight or even in a couple of weeks. With regular yoga practice you’ll see improvement in both your flexibility and your overall health. These are the best yoga poses to guide you to become more flexible and healthy.

1. Criss Cross Stretch

This seated yoga pose is a great and simple pose to start with. You’ll feel a stretch in your lower back and hips. Remember to switch legs to get the most out of this pose.

Benefits & Tips

  • Keep your chest up as you lower your upper body
  • Rest your head on your arms for support
  • Lower yourself only as far as you feel comfortable
  • Stretches lower back and hips

2. Butterfly Pose

This pose is similar to the crisscross stretch but you keep the bottoms of your feet together. Make sure to sit tall with your shoulders up and back. If you feel any discomfort in your lower back, stop the movement.

Benefits & Tips

  • Excellent inner thigh stretch
  • Easily modifiable to your ability
  • Press your elbows on your inner thighs for a deeper stretch
  • Drop your head down to stretch your back

3. Straddle Pose

Another beginner seated yoga pose that stretches the inner thighs. You’ll bring your legs out to your sides, as far as you comfortably can. Maintain your back straight and navel in towards your spine.

Benefits & Tips

  • Tighten your quads to maintain alignment
  • Make sure to keep your feet flexed upwards
  • Adjustable inner thigh stretch based on your flexibility
  • Stop if you experience back pain when you bend forward

4. Seated Forward Bend

This seated forward bend stretches your back, hamstrings, and claves. It’s a good pose for runners and other athletes. Many people find this pose is relaxing.

Benefits & Tips

  • Keep your knees together
  • Maintain a straight back
  • Don’t bounce as you flex your body forward
  • Slightly bend your knees if the stretch is uncomfortable

5. Eagle Arm Pose

If you sit at a desk or computer during the day you likely could benefit from the stretch of the Eagle Arm pose. It may look like you’re twisting your arms in a pretzel, when in fact you are stretching your shoulders and back.

Benefits & Tips

  • Keep your back straight
  • Shoulders should be down and elbows up
  • Avoid this pose if you have elbow or wrist pain
  • Try this pose at work or your desk for a quick mid-day stretch

6. Cow Face Pose

Cow Face pose stretches your arms, chest, and shoulders, making it a nice stretch if you tend to round your shoulders when you sit. If you’re a beginner, you’ll want to grab a towel for this pose to help deepen the stretch.

Benefits & Tips

  • Don’t let your arms push your head or neck
  • Sit nice and tall
  • Don’t let your hands and wrists twist when you join them on your back
  • Avoid pushing your chest and ribs out to clasp your hands

7. Cat and Cow

This is a beginner yoga pose that moves the spine into a rounded and extended position. You’ll follow your breathing pattern during this pose which helps center body and mind on the movements. These movements will warm up your back, increasing circulation and flexibility.

Benefits & Tips

  • Rotate your elbows to keep them facing out
  • Grip the ground with your fingers to relieve pressure off of your wrists
  • Avoid neck strain and move your head slowly during the pose movements
  • Use a towel or thick yoga mat if this pose is uncomfortable for your knees

8. Downward Facing Dog

Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) is probably the one yoga pose everyone has seen. It stretches your hamstrings and strengthens your upper body while you take deep breaths. Almost every yoga class will have this pose incorporated into it at some point.

Benefits & Tips

  • Let your heels drop to the ground without force
  • Play around with feet position
  • Bend one knee at a time for added stretch
  • Press your fingers into the ground to activate the wrists

9. Upward Facing Dog

With this pose, you’ll perform a modified backbend of your back, hips, and thighs. It stretches the chest, abdomen, and hip flexors while strengthening the arms and shoulders. If you spend your days sitting, then try this pose to help strengthen your abdomen, spine, and pull your shoulders back.

Benefits & Tips

  • Keep your shoulders down
  • Don’t curl toes under
  • Lift your thighs off of the ground
  • Keep your eyes looking forward, not up

10. Camel Pose

Here’s a beginner backbend pose that opens the chest, abdomen, and hip flexors. If you’re a seasoned yogi or new to yoga you’ll feel the stretch through the front of your body while improving your spinal mobility and still be able to control your pose with your hands.

Benefits & Tips

  • Improves posture
  • Use yoga blocks if you can’t reach your feet
  • Don’t force yourself into the backbend if it doesn’t come naturally

11. Pigeon Pose

This hip opener pose uses a forward bend to deepen the stretch. With multiple variations and modifications, you can make this pose as simple or difficult as you’d like. To keep the movement going on this pose, transition yourself into Downward Facing Dog to move onto the other leg.

Benefits & Tips

  • Avoid turning your rear leg outward
  • Try to keep your hips square
  • Great stretch for runners

12. Bridge Pose

The Bridge Pose is a great core strengthener and stabilizer movement. You’ll feel the burn in your glutes and hamstrings and a stretch in your chest. To make this movement more difficult, when your hips are lifted off of the ground, clasp your hands together.

Benefits & Tips

  • Keep your upper back pressed into the ground
  • Position your knees over your heels
  • Don’t tuck in your chin
  • Aim to keep a straight line from your knees to your chest

13. Hamstring Stretch

Your hamstring muscles are a group of muscles on the back of the thigh. They are used for almost every lower body activity like running and walking. Stretching this large muscle group will help you curtail injury and keep your body flexible. In this pose, you’ll feel the stretch throughout your hamstring and can easily modify it to your ability.

Benefits & Tips

  • Flex your foot when your leg is straightened
  • Use a yoga strap to help you modify this movement
  • Don’t let your bottom lift off the ground

14. Figure Four Stretch

The Figure Four Stretch releases the hamstring muscles and lower back in a comfortable reclined position. You can deepen the stretch by adjusting how far you bring your knee into your chest. When performing this pose don’t forget to stretch both legs and keep your foot flexed.

Benefits & Tips

  • Keep your upper body pressed into the ground
  • Level of stretch can be adapted based on your flexibility
  • Don’t hold your breath during the pose

15. Lower Lumbar Spinal Twist

In this yoga pose, you’ll stretch your glutes, chest, and oblique muscles. Many yoga teachers will add this pose at the end of their class when your muscles are warmed up. You can benefit from doing it anytime, especially after a long day of sitting at your computer.

Benefits & Tips

  • Improves spinal mobility
  • Aids in digestion
  • Breathe deeply and slowly through the entire pose
  • Place a pillow or towel under your knee to support it if needed

16. Shoulder and Back Release

Here’s a stretch for your hamstrings, shoulder, and back. Grab a towel as an aid if you are unable to clasp your hands behind your back. This pose not only stretches your body but relaxes your neck.

Benefits & Tips

  • Bend your knees to deepen shoulder stretch
  • Roll your shoulders back
  • Relax your upper body to prevent tension build-up

17. Standing Forward Fold

Called Uttanasana in Sanskrit, this yoga pose stretches the hamstrings and back. It’s easy to perform this pose anywhere, at work or at home. Feel free to modify this movement as need based on your own flexibility.

Benefits & Tips

  • Bend at your hips, not the back
  • If your knees are straight, don’t put your weight on your heels
  • Gently shake your head side to side to release your entire back
  • Straighten your legs for a deeper hamstring stretch

18. Crescent Lunge

Crescent Lunge is a deep hip flexor stretch that also strengthens your legs. Practice this pose to improve your stability and balance on top of its strengthening benefits. If you have knee pain, be careful practicing this pose and stop if it causes pain.

Benefits & Tips

  • To protect your front knee keep it aligned with your heel
  • Keep your thighs both square, facing forward
  • Maintain your front foot toes pointing forward

19. Lizard Pose

As a hip opener stretch, you’ll also stretch your inner thighs and groin with the Lizard Pose. If you have poor hip flexibility you will find this pose to be difficult. Feel free to modify this pose as necessary and push slowly through the movements.

Benefits & Tips

  • To deepen the stretch move onto your elbows or drop your back knee
  • Don’t hold your breath as you stretch
  • Avoid forcing yourself to stretch past your comfort zone

20. Warrior II

With this pose, you’ll open your chest, strengthen your arms and legs, and stretch your hips and abductor muscles. Many people find that they tense their shoulders if efforts to keep their arms straight. Try to avoid that and consciously keep your shoulders relaxed.

Benefits & Tips

  • Track your front knee over your heel
  • Maintain your arms parallel to the ground
  • Keep a slight bend in your back knee
  • Avoid letting your front knee turn inward

21. Dancer Pose

Dancer Pose boosts both your flexibility and your balance. If you aren’t steady standing on one foot perform this pose next to wall or chair for stability. With regular practice, you’ll increase your core muscles, balance, and even stretch your shoulders.

Benefits & Tips

  • Keep your shoulders back
  • Aim knee down for a quad stretch
  • Pull knee back for a hip flexor stretch

Tips for Getting Started

Getting started with an at-home yoga practice will improve how you feel and move. At first, yoga can be intimidating, with all the different movements and poses. Don’t let that stop you. Watch yoga videos, take a class, or work with a yoga teacher until you are comfortable. Thankfully, there are multiple resources available to get you started to becoming a true yogi.

A few practical tips to get you started:

  • Gather the right equipment: yoga mat, blocks, yoga strap
  • Review the poses before you try them
  • Listen to your body
  • Move slow and steady
  • Focus your mind on your practice

Perhaps the most important tip is to talk to your doctor before you start a new exercise or stretching routine like yoga. Your doctor will guide you through any movements that could be dangerous for your body and conditions.

See our guide on yoga for seniors if you’re looking for poses tailored to older adults.

Start Your Yoga Practice Today

Yoga is an ancient practice that has gained popularity in the western world. Its benefits transcend gender, nationality, race, age, and all other categories. When using yoga to increase your flexibility you’ll, in turn, improve your overall sense of well-being and strengthen both your mind, body, and spirit.

Sources:

https://www.verywellfit.com/

https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/yoga-for-flexibility#flexibility-benefits

https://www.thegoodbody.com/yoga-poses-for-flexibility/

Jessica Hegg
Jessica Hegg

Jessica Hegg is the content manager and at ViveHealth.com. With vast product knowledge and understanding of individual needs, she aims to share valuable information on making smart buying choices, overcoming obstacles and overall improving the quality of life for others. Avid gym-rat and nutrition enthusiast, she’s interested in all things related to staying active and living healthy lifestyle.



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