Categories: Mindful Movement | Published On: January 23, 2021 |

The Best Yoga Poses to Increase Flexibility

4 minute read
The Best Yoga Poses to Increase Flexibility

If you’re like most people, you can likely remember a moment where you wished you were just a bit more flexible. Perhaps you dropped a pen on the floor and struggled to pick it up, couldn’t quite reach that jar on the top shelf, or wished you could touch your toes with confidence like you used to. In this article, we’re exploring the best yoga postures to increase flexibility. Yoga offers many benefits for both beginners and experts, and flexibility is one of the positive side effects you can expect from a regular yoga practice. Growing in flexibility will take time, but the benefits far outweigh the time you’ll put in. As you build flexibility, your yoga postures will also enhance your strength, confidence, and balance.

How does yoga improve flexibility?

Yoga has been shown to dramatically improve flexibility and balance with the introduction of a regular yoga practice. As you continually stretch certain muscles, they learn to relax and lengthen with time. But the release is also connected to psychological and emotional relaxation. As your body learns to open and relax, your mental and physical tension continually let go. Yoga is a holistic practice, and flexibility shouldn’t be the main reason you begin yoga instruction. But it’s inevitable that regular yoga instruction will increase flexibility throughout your muscular framework.

How often should I practice yoga for flexibility?

Building up flexibility and strength takes time, so it’s important to build up slowly to a regular yoga practice. Your yoga practice is unique to you and will look different than your neighbour based on factors like age, strength, experience, physical limitation, and ability. If you’re a senior yogi, it’s especially important to build up slowly to a regular yoga practice. Slowly enhancing flexibility requires careful attention to what your body needs and wants. When you begin a yoga practice, it’s essential to start with the basic yoga postures to build up strength and comfort. Remember to listen to your body and stop immediately whenever you feel discomfort or pain. You can always move back into a comfortable child’s pose or downward dog to continue stretching without added strain. Ask your doctor before beginning a yoga practice to ensure you’re fully aware of your personal limitations and risk factors. Do you have physical restraints that make it hard to build up strength with yoga practice? Consider signing up for a modified chair yoga class to build up endurance, strength, and flexibility.

Why is it important to incorporate stretching into my yoga practice?

It’s wise to introduce regular, gentle stretches before you dive into a full yoga practice. This is true for any level of ability, but it is especially important for those of us who are mature or elderly. Building up the strength required to hold a yoga posture or a stretch can help you to prevent injury and reinforces balance over time. If you’re taking an online yoga class, don’t feel intimidated by others in the class who are more flexible or physically confident than you are. Take time to stretch, allowing your body to grow in comfort and flexibility before challenging yourself or deepening stretches.

The best yoga poses to increase your flexibility

These yoga poses offer ample opportunity to stretch muscles, release tension, and increase your flexibility over time. As with any physical exercise, listen to your body and move into a modified pose or more gentle stretch if any of these poses don’t feel good to you. As you continually practice these poses, you will notice your body opening up and your muscles softening. Growing your flexibility with yoga can be an incredibly rewarding journey.

Standing Forward Fold or Uttanasana

Standing Forward Fold is a great way to measure your flexibility over time and to stretch your back, releasing pressure along your spine gently. Use your engaged abdominal muscles to allow for greater flexibility and support for your lower back as you fold forwards. It’s important to pay careful attention to alignment and engage your legs in this asana to avoid injury.

How to do a Standing Forward Fold:

  • Inhale deeply. Stand with your feet firmly rooted and gently fold forwards at the hip crease, breathing out and engaging your quadriceps to support your body as you fold.
  • If your fingertips don’t reach the ground, use a yoga block to support your body as you gently release. Don’t force your fold to grow deeper than it naturally intends.

Child’s Pose or Balasana

A woman demonstrates child's pose in a yoga class

The Child’s Pose is a great posture to begin a yoga practice with. This yoga pose offers a comfortable release for tired muscles and can improve flexibility in the back, shoulders, and hamstrings. Release tension throughout the day easily with Child’s Pose. If this posture doesn’t feel comfortable, you can modify the Child’s Pose in a way that feels good to you. You may wish to rest your forehead on a block, kneel on a folded blanket, or lean forward onto your fists until your back lengthens and you feel yourself growing in flexibility.

How to do the Child’s Pose:

  • Begin by kneeling on your yoga mat with your knees hip-width apart and your feet together.
  • As you exhale, reach your arms over your head and fold forwards with a long spine so that your torso and head rest comfortably between your knees.
  • Stay in this pose breathing deeply for as long as you like.

Upward-Facing Dog or Urdhva Mukha Svanasana

A woman practices yoga at home

This yoga pose opens up the front of your body and abdomen, with a gentle stretch that radiates along the front of your body. As you regularly practice Upward-Facing Dog, you’ll notice that you can lift your chest higher with a wider stance. As your tailbone extends, you’ll also release tension along your spine with this essential yoga posture.

How to do the Upward-Facing Dog Pose:

  • Begin lying facedown on your mat, with your elbows bent and tucked in beside your body.
  • Become aware of your hips and press down on the mat from your pelvis.
  • Engage your core and push the front of your body up by rooting your arms downwards, tilting your head towards the sky. You will feel the stretch along the front of your body. Keep breathing.
  • Allow your chest to open as you push up, grounded by your legs and hips.
  • Feel free to modify this yoga pose. If it feels difficult, keep your knees on the ground. If you feel confident in this pose, let an engaged core lift your knees and the front of your legs off the mat.

Downward Facing Dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana

A woman demonstrates downward dog as a yoga pose

If you’ve done yoga before, you know that this pose is an essential yoga posture that most yoga flow classes return to regularly. This yoga posture is also a great way to assess flexibility throughout your practice. You’ll notice that as you continually return to Downward Facing Dog posture throughout your practice, the pose will change and open up as your muscles relax. After several weeks of regular, gentle practice, you should notice your heels getting closer to the floor and your hips pushing back with more comfort and ease.

How to do the Downward Facing Dog pose:

  • Begin on your hands and knees, with your knees under your hips, shoulder-width apart.
  • Spread apart your fingers and press them into the mat, lifting your tailbone up and back.
  • Gently lower your heels to the floor as low as they’ll go as you straighten your legs.
  • Release your head so that you’re looking at your knees, with your head between your two extended arms. Keep your spine long.
  • Does this pose feel impossible for you? Try bending your knees. You may also need to work into this yoga pose with some modifications. Try using a chair or blocks for support.
  • Hold this pose for as many breaths as you like, but it’s typically a longer pose that can be comfortably held for 5-10 deep breaths.

Enhance your flexibility with Boomerang’s online yoga classes

If you’re looking to increase your flexibility, why not try a yoga class at home? Our online community at Boomerang is a great place to source information, inspiration, and wellness tips from an active community of yoga enthusiasts from many different backgrounds. Whether you’re looking to try something new or develop skills you already have, our community is here to join you on your journey.

Are you looking to explore wellness in your own life? If you’re inspired by this yoga flexibility guide, sign up for Boomerang and check out our other wellness and mindfulness workshops. Explore yoga classes, wellness tips, and more. Boomerang is a great place to learn, make friends and get inspired from the comfort of your own home.

View all upcoming Boomerang workshops.

This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.

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