Is the belief that you’re not flexible enough keeping you from joining the healthy life and start yoga? You are not the only one!
Most people are under the impression that to do yoga you have to already be flexible. When in reality, most people practice yoga to increase their flexibility.
“What? Yoga improves flexibility?”
Yes! Yoga poses help to stretch your muscles and increases your range of motion. This leads to an improvement in flexibility over time apart from the various other health benefits that yoga provides.
So there you have it, you can do yoga even if you can’t touch your toes without having to bend your knees! After all, the goal is to eventually get there.
“What’s all this hype about flexibility anyway? Is it that important?”
Flexibility can help to relieve aches and pains, prevents back pain and promotes joint health. Stretching the muscles also relieves tension and stress. So if not just to be healthy, you can improve your flexibility to feel good as well!
In this article, we’ve covered 14 yoga poses that help improve flexibility. If you’re a beginner we advise to start by holding the poses only for 20 seconds and then gradually increasing the limit.
Practice these yoga poses for 2-3 times per week and you’ll soon start seeing positive results!
Best Yoga Poses For Flexibility:
1. Downward facing dog
Benefits: Helps in relieving stress and stretches the hamstrings, shoulders, and calves. It also improves digestion and relieves back pain.
How to do:
- Make sure you straighten your back. Then, flatten your palms on the mat with the arms slightly beyond the shoulders and kneel while positioning your knees a little behind your hips.
- Lift your knees from the floor. If you’re facing difficulty in doing so, you can keep the knees a little bent at first.
- Straighten your legs and lift your seat towards the ceiling. Keep your head in between your biceps.
- Move your shoulders slightly away from your ears and pedal your feet one at a time.
- Once your tailbone is extended upwards and backward enough, maintain this posture and breathe.
2. Big toe Pose
Benefits: Helps to strengthen tight hamstrings and thighs, stimulates liver and kidneys, relieves stress.
Note: Avoid this pose if you have lower back issues!
How to do:
- Stand up straight with your feet parallel and at least around six inches apart from each other. Keep your legs completely straight and firm and slowly bend forward from your hips. You have to think of your torso and head as one and move them together.
- Enclose your fingers around the big toe and the second toe and grip them firmly. Your elbows should be a little bit folded. If you’re having difficulty reaching your toes while keeping your back straight you can use yoga straps and pass them under each foot to hold. Don’t worry it’s not cheating!
- Straighten your elbows and lift your seat and your torso. Doing this will hollow your lower back and lower belly. Don’t lose hold of your toes while doing this.
- Exhale and move towards your toes again. Then straighten your torso, relax and repeat this process a few times. Remember to keep your breathing even.
3. Pigeon Pose
Benefits: It increases hip mobility and hip flexibility, stretches the thighs and extends the groin and psoas. It also helps to relieve lower back pain.
Note: This one can be tough for people with tight hips and we recommend using props to help!
How to do:
- Start on all fours with your toes tucked under your feet and your palms touching the mat.
- Bring your right knee up towards your right wrist and cross it in such a way that your right heel comes under the left thigh and the right knee, a little further than your right hip. This will look somewhat like a triangle.
- Extend your left leg back and lay it straight in a way that your left thigh and foot touch the mat’s surface.
- Now settle your hips on the mat while staying in that position and straighten your back. You can lay your hands on either side of your torso for balance.
- Next, move your hands and torso forward. You can keep a pillow in front of you to rest your head on and then stretch your hands forward in a way that they rest on the floor. Stay in the position for a few moments and focus on your breathing.
4. Standing forward bend
Benefits: Stretches your hamstrings, back, and hips. Relieves anxiety and headaches. It also strengthens the thighs and knees.
Note: Avoid this pose if you have lower back and hamstring issues, Sciatica or a detached retina.
How to do:
- First, stand straight on your mat and rest your hands on your hips. Bend the knees slightly and bend forward from the hips. Move your hips and tailbone slightly back as your upper body moves forward.
- Keep your feet parallel to each other with six inches between them and rest your hands on the floor next to them.
- Make sure you feel the stretch from your hips and your hamstrings and not from your lower back. You can micro bend your knees to reduce the tension.
- Keep your head loose and allow it to reach the ground in a way that you can look through your legs. Keep a distance between your pubis and your chest bone throughout. Hold the position and breathe until you’re ready to release.
5. Eye of the needle
Benefits: Opens up the hips and the legs. Stretches the lower back and helps with digestion. This can also serve as a good alternative for the pigeon pose as that can be tough for beginners.
How to do:
- Start by laying on your back on the mat.
- Pull your knees towards your chest.
- Cross either right or left ankle over the other thigh. If you feel like this is stretching your legs enough then you can stop here and repeat with the other leg.
- However, if you want to make this a little more advanced, you can lift the bottom leg up and towards your chest gently with both your hands. Keep the other leg crossed throughout. Stop at the point where you feel the stretch. Hold this position for a few moments.
6. Bridge Pose
Benefits: stretches your shoulders, hips, abdomen, and chest. Strengthens the legs, glutes, and back.
How to do:
- Lay flat on your mat and place your legs in a way that your knees are up and your feet are flat on the mat. Stretch out your arms on either side of your chest keeping them flat.
- Now press your back, shoulders, and feet into the ground and slowly lift your hips up into the air.
- Make sure that there is not a lot of distance between your knees by tightening your inner thighs.
- Tuck each shoulder under and press your arms down. You can even interlock them under your head if that’s more comfortable but try to keep your neck straight.
- Stay in this position for a few moments and concentrate on your breathing. Then release by exhaling and sinking the spine back to the floor.
7.Cow face pose
Benefits: Opens up the hips and knees and aids digestion. It also stretches the biceps, pectorals, trapezius, and serratus anterior.
How to do:
- Start by sitting on the mat in a kneeling position. Cross your right leg over the left, going over the left knee.
- Stretch your right leg and make sure that the right feet rest on the ground next to the left knee.
- Lift your right arm towards the ceiling and then bend your elbow in a way that your hand reaches your upper back.
- Bend your left arm backward in a way that it reaches your lower back (or center depending on how flexible you are).
- Now, try joining your hands together behind your back. If you cannot meet your hands then you can use yoga straps or any random cloth between your hands to connect and hold.
- You should feel your arms stretching but not so much that it causes pain. Hold this position for a few breaths then release slowly.
8. Pyramid Pose
Benefits: Stretches the hamstrings and hips and improves balance as well as stability.
How to do:
- Start with standing on your mat with your feet parallel to each other. Now move your feet apart from each other with at least a distance of 3 feet between them. Your left foot should be behind you.
- Move your right foot a quarter to the right and your left foot 90° to the right in a way that the left foot is aligned with the right foot. Both your hip joints should be facing the front of the mat.
- Now, bend from your waist and bring your head down so that your forehead touches your right knee. Press your heels into the mat.
- For stretching more, bring your hand to your central back and clasp them or simply touch the palms with each other.
- Hold this pose for a few breaths and then release slowly by releasing your hands and lifting your spine. Repeat with the other leg.
9. Goddess Pose
Benefits: This poses stretches and opens up your hips. It also strengthens the hamstrings, calves and the quads.
Note: This pose is recommended for pregnant women! It can help prepare the body for childbirth.
How to do:
- First, stand upright on a mat with both your feet parallel to each other and some distance of at least 3 feet between them.
- Turn your feet outwards (right foot 45° to the right and left foot 45°to the left).
- Now while bending the knees, bring your hips down in level with your knees. Your thighs should be facing the ground.
- Bring the arms up on either side of you in a way that they are in line with your shoulder. Now bend your elbow upwards. Your upper arms should be in the air, parallel to your neck and the palms facing forward.
- Press your feet and tailbone down towards the ground and stay in this pose for around 5 deep breaths. To release, lower your arms and slowly stand upright.
10. Child’s pose
Benefits: Opens up the hips, stretches the lower back and glutes. It also stimulates digestion.
Note: Avoid this pose if you have a recent chronic injury to the knees.
How to do:
- Start on your hands and knees. Bring your hips down towards your feet and your forehead towards the ground, touching the mat. You can keep your knees close or a little apart whichever feels more comfortable.
- Move your arms above your head and keep them straight with the palms and upper arms resting on the mat.
- Hold this pose and concentrate on your breathing. Every time you breathe in, press your belly gently into your thighs. Continue this for a few breaths and then release by getting up into a seating position.
11. Cobra Pose
Benefits: It stretches the abdomen, shoulders, thorax, and lungs.
Note: This pose should be avoided if you suffer from back issues, frequent headaches, hernia or carpal tunnel syndrome.
How to do:
- Start by lying flat on your stomach. Keep your feet close to each other with your toes touching.
- Bring your hands to the front so that they are in line with your shoulders. Lay your palms on the mat.
- Now press your palms in the mat and use them to raise your upper back and head up. Arch your head back a little (imagine a cobra!) and keep your shoulders firm and square. They shouldn’t touch your ears.
- Press your hips, thighs, and palms to the floor and hold this pose for a few seconds.
12. Bow Pose
Benefits: It helps to stretch the Abdomen, Thighs, Ankles, and Groin. It strengthens the spine and the back. Aids digestion.
Note: Avoid this pose if you suffer from back pain, hernia or if you have any neck injuries.
How to do:
- Start by lying flat on your stomach. Lay your arms straight on either side of your torso.
- Fold your knees and raise your legs up in the air. Raise your arms above your back and hold the ankles.
- Now lift your chest and thighs from the ground. Pull your legs towards your head. (Picture a bow when the arrow is knocked)
- Hold this pose and concentrate on breathing for about 20 seconds.
13. Camel Pose
Benefits: It stretches the abdomen, thorax, ankles, and quads. It also strengthens the back.
Note: Avoid this if you are suffering from back and neck injury.
How to do:
- Start in a kneeling position with your hands on your hips. The soles of your feet should be facing up.
- Arch your back and bring your lower spine towards your pubis. Bring your hands to your feet and hold them. Your arms should be straight.
- Meanwhile, arch your neck backward but not so much that it strains. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds and then release.
14. Cobbler’s Pose
Benefits: For the last one we have a very simple pose which has many benefits and is also recommended for pregnant women. It stretches the hips and groin. Stimulates the kidneys and abdomen and aids in digestion. It also helps to straighten the spine. If you practice this pose very frequently for a long period of time it can also cure asthma, high blood pressure and a number of diseases.
Note: Avoid this if you have a knee injury and if you’re on your period.
How to do:
- Sit upright on the mat with your legs stretched out. Then bend your knees and bring your feet to your pelvis. The soles of your feet should touch each other.
- You can use your hands to bring your feet as close to the pelvis as you can. Then with your fingers grip each of your big toes.
- Your shoulder should be firm and pressed to the back and your spine should be erect. Keep your chest broad and your thighs pressed to the ground.
- try holding this pose for around 2 minutes (or more if you can!) And then release gently by extending your legs.
Just be little patient, and these yoga poses will improve your flexibility day by day. Overstretching yourself hoping to achieve your flexibility goals in a single day will only lead to injuries, thus delaying your flexibility goals further.