One of the many benefits of yoga is that it allows you to improve your flexibility. Flexibility is so important for your overall health and is key to avoiding injury, especially as you get older. Many people think that you have to be flexible to practice yoga, but actually it’s just the opposite: doing yoga more often will make you more flexible.
Flexibility helps with pain, stiffness and stability. Did you know that hip flexibility can mange or eliminate lower back and knee pain, while also helping you find stability in your centre? Flexibility in your spine aids with circulation and energy, and maintaining flexible hamstrings improves your physical abilities and works to prevent injuries. Having a strong and fit body is one thing, but have a flexible body is key to maintaining it.
Whether you’d like more flexibility in your spine, hamstrings, hips, or shoulders working these yoga stretches into your daily/bi-daily routine is a sure way to boost your flexibility. I always recommend taking classes in a yoga studio for the best overall benefits, but if you’re stuck on time you can do easily do these poses from the comfort of your own home – just make sure to use a yoga mat!
How it works: Camel is a classic backbend that works to open tight shoulders.
How to do it: Stand on your shins with your knees hip-width distance apart. Lean back, placing your hands on your heels, arch your back and let your head fall between your shoulder blades. Press your hip forwards and stay here for five deep breaths.
Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend
How it works: This pose stretches the legs, spine, and groin, and also has the added benefit of relieving stress. If you have back problems, do not fold forward completely and always work within your personal rang of abilities.
How to do it: Spread your legs out to the side, as far as you comfortably can. Keep your chest open and your back straight, and hinge forward at the hips. Reach as far as you can – even if that means you are sitting up straight (it’s a tough one!) you will still get amazing benefits from this pose!
Big Toe Pose
How it works: This folded pose lengthens tight hamstrings. It also strengthens your thighs and stretches your calves.
How to do it: Stand with your feet parallel, about hip-width distance apart. Keeping your legs straight, exhale and bend forward from your hip joints. Curl the index and middle fingers of each of your hands between your big toes and second toes, wrapping your thumbs around the two fingers to secure them. If you want a bigger stretch, bring your hand behind your heels. Take five deep breaths.
Cow Face Pose
How it works: The cow face pose deeply opens the hips and knee joints. It increases flexibility in the ankles, hips and thighs, armpits and triceps, shoulders and chest – how great is that!
How to do it: Start sitting with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Slide your left foot under your right knee, reaching to the outside of the right hip. Cross your right leg over the left, stacking the right knee on top of the left, and bringing the right foot to the outside of the left hip. Reach your left fingers between the shoulder blades, reaching your right hand around the back to grasp your left fingers. Gently bring the arms toward each other and hold for 5 to 8 deep breaths. Come out of the position by slowly releasing the arms and then unfolding the legs.
Bound Angle Pose
How it works: Bound angle pose is one of the best hip-openers! It counteracts stiff and crunched hips that become typical when you sit in a chair all day.
How to do it: Sit up straight with the soles of your feet together. Pull your heels toward your pelvis, dropping your knees out to the sides. With your first and second finger and thumb grab on to the big toe of each foot. Lengthen your front torso and hinge forward at the hips as far as you comfortably can.
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