For so many of us who start yoga, gaining flexibility is the main goal. Am I right? While there is far more to yoga, a more supple and bendy body is indeed one of the many benefits of a regular asana practice.
While we might want some flexibility to boost our ego, it’s important for our body to stay healthy, pain-free, and to be able to sit comfortably and for a long time in meditation. Which is the actual goal of the asana practice?
10 Yoga Poses for Flexibility
Here are 10 yoga poses for flexibility that will also make you feel calm and in control. At the end of the day, that’s all we want, isn’t it?
1. Half Monkey Pose
The main muscles that get stretched in a yoga practice are the hamstrings, running along the back of our legs.
As opposed to full-on splits, in half splits you can easily control how deep you want your stretch to be, as you’re supporting your main weight with your bent leg and your hands. Slowly over time, you can extend your back leg into the full expression of the pose.
2. Seated Forward Fold
There are many variations of a Seated Forward Fold. Keeping the knees bent, relaxing your muscles for a more restorative version, or holding on to your flexed feet, bringing the head closer to the knees by gently pulling your torso forward and down.
If you have a dodgy lumbar spine, keep the bend in your knee and fold forward with a straight back, as slipped discs happen easily in this pose. Don’t compromise the safety to get lower by a few more inches.
3. Head to Big Toe Pose
Popular in Ashtanga Yoga, Head to Big Toe Pose is for the balanced yogi. If you can’t reach the toes with your fingers, keep your knee bent.
A little top for balance: Keep the knee of your standing leg soft. It truly works wonders.
Lizard pose stretches your inner thighs, groin and hip flexors quite nicely. You can sway forwards and backward on your back foot for a more dynamic and playful expression of the pose, or come down low on your forearms.
Dynamic Butterfly is a nice warm up. It opens up the inner thighs and stretches the groin (besides keeping the reproductive organs in check). Go for some strong flaps with your knees, then hold the knees down for a few breaths.
It’s important to breathe deeply into your groin here and – you’ve guessed it – to keep a straight spine.
6. Low Lunge
Low Lunge is oh so good after walking, running, but also sitting much. Basically after most activities that aren’t yoga.
Sit your hips really deep here and you will get a nice strong stretch of your hip flexors and especially of the Psoas muscle, the main hip flexor. The Psoas is much talked about, and all yogis agree that it plays a major role in keeping the lower back happy.
7. Pigeon Pose
Pigeon Pose is one of my favorite poses. You don’t have to do anything and can just enjoy the feeling of how your hip opens up a little bit more with every exhale.
You can also let go of all the effort in your muscles and take this pose in a restorative way. Mhmm.
Cobra is a great way of making your spine more supple and flexible. Back pain and also injuries are often based on missing flexibility in the spine. So let’s twist, extend and flex the spine in our beautiful yoga practice. Gently though.
Want to hear about more benefits? Cobra Pose creates space in the chest for your breath to flow and strengthens your arms, shoulders and lower back.
The wheel is an advanced yoga pose, demanding not only a flexible spine but also a good amount of arm strength. If you don’t feel ready for Wheel, keep practicing Bridge Pose.
Wheel and also Bridge Pose open up your chest and shoulders nicely and are targeting the heart chakra. Breathe deeply into your chest – I know, it’s difficult in this position, as the throat is overextended – but it trains all muscles involved in your breathing.
10. Wide-Legged Forward Fold
Folding forward from a standing position stretches the inner legs and the backs of the legs, plus it extends our spine. I personally prefer it to its seated counterpart, as gravity does most of the work here. Thank you, gravity!
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