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Many yogis are quick to extol the virtues of yoga and what it can do for your flexibility. It's true, in terms of health benefits, increased flexibility is chief among them. Yoga improves range of motion and benefits joint health, which may reduce back pain, sports injuries, and repetitive strain injuries. Yoga can offer much more than improve overall flexibility. And, it's important to recognise just how dangerous it can be to push yourself too hard to achieve a certain level of flexibility.
Yoga is a whole-body exercise that involves movement, posture, and breathing. To complicate new-found flexibility, you have to work on building your strength. Your support muscles will help you ensure you practice safe alignment.
If you have tight muscle groups, whether it's your hips or hamstrings, shoulders or calves, then yoga might be the solution you are looking for. You don't need to be flexible to do yoga; the flexibility comes as a result of dedicated yoga practice. While strength training and cardio are the most commonly discussed in terms of exercise, flexibility is unspoken until someone experiences pain or has an injury. When someone does experience pain or injury, part of their recovery treatment involves stretching muscles because they are limiting the range of motion and stressful joints and other vulnerable areas.
The flexibility yoga delivers also has mental benefits. You can improve flexibility by stretching, and stretching helps relieve tension. When you release that physical tension, your mind will also let go of its tension.
First things, first. If you plan to exercise regularly, you should invest in high-quality activewear. It doesn't matter if you prefer women's leggings or high rise yoga pants. Wearing the appropriate activewear boosts your confidence, puts you in the right mindset, and helps keep you safe. Wearing yoga pants or yoga leggings helps regulate body temperature, moisture wicks, and provides support to reduce the risk of inflammation.
There are a few key considerations before you start a new yoga routine. Remember, a lack of focus or attention can cause serious injuries.
The best yoga poses to increase your flexibility are the poses you can do consistently. Your hamstrings, shoulders, and hips tend to carry the most stress and are often tighter. So, any pose that focuses on these areas will help you improve your flexibility. But, yoga poses don't focus on one area. So, you will need a full repertoire to address each area.
The intense side stretch is ideal for stretching your legs, hips, and spine. It also provides benefits to digestion, posture, and balance.
◦ Begin by standing with your left foot in front of you facing forward. Your right foot should be further back and slightly angled out.
◦ Square your hips forward and place both hands on your hips.
◦ Fold your torso forward by bending at your hips while you tuck your chin into your chest.
◦ Let your hands drop towards the floor, and hold this pose for up to a minute. When complete, do the same on the opposite side.
The plough pose is an intermediate posture. It can relieve tension in your spine, neck, and shoulders. You should avoid doing this if you have digestion issues, low or high blood pressure or neck problems.
◦ Lie on your back with your arms resting at either side of your body, your palms pressed against the floor.
◦ Raise your legs 90 degrees, and then bring them overhead.
◦ With your hands resting on your lower back, your pinky fingers should rest on either side of your spine.
◦ Hold this for up to two minutes and release it by rolling your spine down to the floor. You can complete this pose three times.
3. Janu Sirsasana
The head to knee is an excellent flexibility pose if you want more movement in your thighs, back, and hips. It's also a helpful stress reliever and improves blood flow in the abdomen.
◦ Start by sitting down, either on a yoga mat or the ground.
◦ With your left foot, press against the inside of your right thigh, with your right leg fully extended.
◦ Now inhale as you raise your arms above your head.
◦ As you exhale, fold your torso forward, bending at the hip.
◦ You can hold onto the extended leg or put your hands on the floor as you hold the pose. This one can be held for up to two minutes, depending on your skill level. Once complete, do the same on the opposite side.
4. Bitlisana Marjaryasana
The cat-cow is one of the most common and simplest. It is excellent for flexibility and mobility, with a focus on your spine, core, neck, and shoulders.
◦ You will want a yoga mat for this as you begin the pose on the ground on all fours. Your wrists should align with your shoulders and your knees with your hips.
◦ Balance your weight evenly across your body. As you slowly inhale, let your stomach fall towards the floor.
◦ As your stomach moves downward, raise your chin and chest.
◦ Press your hands into the floor and round your spine towards the ceiling as you exhale. As you do so, tuck your chin into your chest. Hold this pose for up to one minute, depending on your skill level.
This pose is appropriate for everyone and stretches your chest, arms, and shoulders.
◦ Sit in a comfortable position and allow your chest to open and spine to lengthen.
◦ Start by extending your non-dominant arm overhead, bend at the elbow and allow your fingers to point down. Using your dominant hand, draw the other elbow over, allowing your hand to move down your spine. If it's comfortable, you can bend your dominant arm up along your spine to grab your non-dominant hand. Hold this pose for 30 seconds and then switch arms to repeat.
The bow pose is intermediate and stretches a lot of the muscles in use while sitting. It helps boost core muscle flexibility, as well as your back, legs, chest, and glutes. If you have pain in your back, shoulders or neck, you should avoid this pose.
◦ This is another pose where you will need a yoga mat. Begin the pose by laying on your stomach. Your arms should lay alongside you.
◦ Reach back with your hands to grab your ankles as you bend your knees. Hold them by the outside.
◦ If you can, lift your shoulders and chest off the ground. If you feel uncomfortable, stop.
◦ Your head should remain forward for thirty seconds. Continue taking deep breaths while you hold the post. You can repeat this once or twice. Again, if you can't hold it for thirty seconds, don't worry. Do it for as long as you comfortably can.
7. Upavistha Konasana
The forward bend opens your lower back and hips and increases flexibility in your calves and hamstrings. If you're an advanced yogi, you can go deeper into this pose by sitting on the edge of a cushion.
◦ Sit on a yoga mat and open your legs as wide as they will go.
◦ Reach into the sky overhead with both arms.
◦ Fold your torso forward by folding at your hips, allowing your hands to walk toward your feet.
◦ You can hold this pose for up to two minutes.
The low lunge is a pose for all levels, and it helps open your hips, build muscle strength, and stretch your spine. If you have sciatica, you may find this helps alleviate some symptoms.
◦ The low lung begins with your left knee kneeling on the floor. Your right knee should bend with your foot flat on the ground, directly in front of you. Almost in a proposal kneel.
◦ Lengthen from your spine right up to the top of your head.
◦ Lift your arms and torso and extend your arms to one side so they are parallel to the floor.
◦ Push gently into your right hip and hold this pose for thirty seconds.
◦ Once you have completed this pose, you can switch legs and repeat.
Try these methods above and you’ll start each day healthier and happier (in body and mind) than ever before.