Yoga is a common practice done all over the world. It involves movement, meditation, and breathing techniques – all intending to promote both mental and physical well-being (1). It involves different poses, concentration, and deep breathing as well. Yoga is associated with so many benefits, and that is why many people choose to do yoga. Among the numerous benefits of doing yoga, one important advantage it helps with is flexibility. With that said, in this read, we shall look at the different yoga poses for flexibility.
Yoga And Flexibility
Yoga and flexibility are two things that are thought to go together. This happens to be both a good thing and a bad thing to some people. Flexibility is a good thing, and we shall highlight the many advantages of flexibility in the later parts of this read. The bad to all this is from the common misconception that people think they need to be flexible to do yoga, which is not true at all. This misconception has kept many people away from yoga and its numerous benefits. It is important to know that being flexible is not a requirement for yoga, but is a result of doing yoga. No matter how still you think you are or you actually are, you should definitely try yoga.
How Does Yoga Differ From Stretching In Terms Of Flexibility?
This is a question that is usually asked by many people wanting to know why they should do yoga instead of stretch. Yoga differs from stretching because it promotes and emphasizes safe form. The duration of doing the different yoga poses is different, and these different poses work to engage major muscles that are known by most people, as well as small minor muscles that are usually not engaged in different stretching forms (4). With that said, the difference between yoga and stretching can be broken down into three functions: alignment, attention, and awareness.
- Alignment refers to the exact way each pose is done so that the participant can experience the most gain and reduce harm in all forms (4).
- Attention refers to the participant feeling each pose and not just passing through it or zoning out while at it (4).
- Awareness is closely related to attention, but it emphasizes more on being completely focused on every second of doing the different poses (4).
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Benefits Of Flexibility
Here are some advantages of being flexible:
- Less tension on your muscles (2). When you stretch your muscles through the various yoga poses, you release their tightness and tension. This makes motion easier.
- Reduces pain on muscles (2). By reducing tension on the various muscles, you can reduce the stress and pressure on different body parts like the back, neck, and shoulders. This reduces the chances of getting back pains, neck pains, shoulder pains, among others.
- Reduces the risk of getting injured (2). Flexible muscles are less likely to get injured when you do different activities like working out.
- Improved posture (2). Everyone wants to have a good posture, and being flexible helps improve your posture as your body feels less tight and tense.
- Increased range of motion(2). Do you remember when you were a child? How you could bend your body parts to extreme levels that you can’t right now? Well, being flexible helps increase your range of motion, even if it is not to the extreme levels you could do as a child, but somewhere close to that.
Best Yoga Poses For Flexibility
Since you now know the advantages of being flexible, here are some yoga poses to help with flexibility:
Reclined Hand To Big Toe Pose
This yoga pose is also referred to as supta padangusthasana. Due to the form of this pose, you might need a strap, a belt, or you can just hold the lifted leg with your hand. You need to keep your leg straight while doing the padangusthasana as this is the best way to stretch your groins, hips, hamstrings, and calves.
How to do it (4)?
- You start by lying on your back. Then bend your knees and make sure both your feet are firmly on the ground.
- Take your right knee and hold it in near your chest. Then take your yoga strap and tie it around your big toe or your instep.
- Then extend your right leg towards the sky. Make sure you keep your leg straight while extending it.
- If you can, you can extend your left leg along the ground. If you cannot, it is still okay to keep it bent.
- Activate both feet (point or flex).
- You can place a hand on your left thigh so that you can remember to keep your left hip flat down at all times.
- You also need to make sure to keep both your right thigh bone and your right upper arm bone settled in their sockets.
- Take 5 to 10 breaths in that position then you can switch to the left leg.
Cow Face Pose
This pose is also referred to as gomukhasana. It helps stretch out your arms, chest, and shoulders.
How to do it (2)?
- Start by sitting in a comfortable position, then lengthen your spine and open up your chest.
- Take your left hand and over your head, then bend it so that your finger points down your spine.
- Then, take your right hand and place it on your left elbow and gently move it to the right while letting the left hand move lower down your spine.
- If this is not intense enough for you and you want to increase the intensity, you can try bending your right hand upwards along your spine to try and grab your left hand. You should be careful while doing this, and you are recommended to do it if only you are comfortable doing it. Be careful not to injure yourself.
- Hold that position for about 30 seconds and then switch hands and repeat the whole procedure with the other hand.
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Intense Side Stretch
This yoga pose for flexibility is also known as parsvottanasana. It helps to stretch your spine, legs, and hips. Apart from helping with flexibility, it also helps improve your balance, posture, and aids with digestion.
How to do it (2)?
- First, stand up and place your left foot right in front of you while facing forward. Then take your right foot and place it back with your toes facing out at a slight angle.
- Then square your hips to face forward and place your hands on your hips.
- Bend at your hips while working to keep your spine and neck long as you fold forward.
- Now drop your hands to the floor.
- Hold the pose for 30 seconds to 60 seconds, and then go back up to the standing position.
- Interchange the positions of your feet and repeat the whole procedure.
Downward Facing Dog
The downward-facing dog yoga pose is also referred to as the adho mukha svanasana and is one of the most popular asanas. It helps with almost everything, including flexibility. It helps stretch your hamstrings and calves.
How to do it (4)?
- You start this pose while you are on all your fours. Your wrists should be under your shoulders, and your knees should be under your hips.
- Then push your hands into the ground and lift your hips toward the ceiling. This allows you to lengthen your legs so that you can form an inverted letter “V” with your body.
- If you are new to yoga and especially this pose, do not feel the pressure to straighten those legs, and you can bend your knees. As you become more used to the exercise, you become more flexible and able to straighten your legs.
- Let your spine lengthen as you hold that position.
- Hold for that position for 30 seconds to 60 seconds and then repeat.
This asana helps engage your torso while helping stretch your legs, inner thighs, hamstrings, calves, and Achilles tendon.
How to do it (3)?
- You start by standing with your feet parallel to each other. Your feet should be about 4 feet apart, and your hands should be extended to your sides.
- Then pivot your right foot 90 degrees, and turn your left foot a little bit, so it faces towards your right foot.
- Breathe out and shift your torso; your right hand over your right leg. Do all this while keeping your lower body still.
- Then take your right hand and place it right below your kneecap and extend your left hand towards the sky.
- Now rotate your ribcage, and turn your head to face your left arm.
- Hold for this position for 30 seconds, and then repeat on your left side.
The Bottom Line
The various yoga poses for flexibility highlighted in this read will help you become flexible in no time. While doing the various poses, make sure not to do them in the wrong form or to overstretch as that might cause injuries.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- How does yoga work? (2021, medicalnewstoday.com)
- It’s Flex Time: 11 Yoga Poses to Turn You into a Bendy Badass (2021, greatist.com)
- Melt Into These 16 Flexibility-Boosting Yoga Poses and Unknot Muscles You Forgot You Had (2019, popsugar.com)
- YOGA FOR FLEXIBILITY: 9 BEST YOGA POSES TO BE MORE FLEXIBLE (n.d., liforme.com)