Yoga for Flexibility: The Beginners Guide to Eliminating Stiffness

yoga for flexibilityYou’re 25. Not 90. But your body feels like it’s lived through war, more than one Great Depression, decades of hard work and – you’re tired of it. Thankfully, yoga can help alleviate some of your tense muscles, stiff joints and the general misery that you’ve been carrying around with you. Take a few minutes out each day to treat yourself to a nice stretch and all your old and achy parts will thank you later. Plus, maybe, one day you’ll be able to touch your toes. Finally. The honest yoga for beginners. (I got you.) Here is a beginner’s guide to use yoga for flexibility.

A few pointers to follow before you get started:

1. Don’t overdo it. Yeah, it feels good, you’ve got it, but really – don’t overdo it. These poses are aimed at improving flexibility which involves a lot of stretching and sometimes you can over stretch and that causes broken things. Don’t break things. If you do, repair them with neck and back care through yoga.

2. Don’t try to do the absolute most complicated yoga pose because you want to show off or see if you can do it. Chances are you’ll end up hurting yourself or want to hurt others.

3. Call the yoga poses by their awkward animal yoga names. You’ll butcher it if you try to call it by its “proper” name and your friends and yoga peers won’t know what  you’re talking about. Downward facing dog is much more acceptable.

4. Stick with it. If you don’t practice yoga on the regular, those few days of being super flexible won’t last and you’ll be back at square one. Make it a part of your routine, two or three times a week.

Why are you not flexible?

Maybe because you sit in a chair that feels like asphalt all day with your hands on a button board. Or maybe it’s because you stand all day on a floor that feels like (or is) asphalt and you don’t get a break. It could be age, it could be genetics, it could be your diet and it most certainly could be because you don’t do anything to challenge the inflexibility from creeping up on you. Time for change. And just think, if you start doing flexibility exercises on the regular it could improve your circulation too, which means no more unacceptably cold feet.

Okay, yogi. Time to begin.

1.  Bound Angle Pose/Seated Pose (baddha konasana)

Bound Angle Pose/Seated PoseIt sounds more dangerous than it is. Really, this is just a more complicated (not really) version of sitting on the floor with your feet together. If you can’t quite get your feet together – it’s okay. Give yourself a week or two and you’ll have no problem. If you can get them together, start working them towards your body to increase the stretch. This will stretch your hips, lower back, outer and inner thighs. Man, does it feel good.

How:

1. Sit on the floor. (Nailed it.)

2. Fold one of your legs in so your foot is facing the inside of your extended leg.

3. Bring your other foot in and put the soles of your feet together.

4. If you aren’t feeling a stretch yet, pull your feet closer to you with one hand, don’t let your butt slide back – that defeats the purpose. Now push down on your feet. This will make you lean forward a bit. The closer your feet are to you the more stretch your inner thighs will get (this is what makes it the bound angle), the further away your feet are, the more the outside of your thighs stretch (this is called the seated pose).

5. Stretch. Stretch as long as you want to. Breathe deeply and think about how awesome you are. When you’re done, check out Yin Yoga for even more yoga inside tips.

2. Low Lunge (Ashwa Sanchalanasana)

Low LungeIt’s like you’re proposing but you forget to bring one leg with you. This pose stretches the hips and psoas (long muscles along your back and into your pelvis). It feels really good but if you stay here too long, you might get stuck. Or at least I have, guess I get too into the back arch part for which my lower back is unforgiving.

How:

1. Stand in Mountain pose (straight with feet together and hands at your sides)

2. Step your right foot backwards far enough that your left leg comes to a 90 degree angle to the ground. Make sure your left foot is planted firmly on the ground and that your right leg is extended fully and you are pushing towards the matt with your knee.

3. Place your hands on your knee and push down towards the mat with your pelvis.

4. Hold for 6-8 breaths and come back to Mountain pose.

3. Childs Pose (Balsana)

Childs PoseIt’s as simple as it sounds. Stretch out your lower back and gain some more flexibility in your hips with this fool-proof pose. Seriously, it’s so easy. This is a very basic pose in yoga so learn it, remember it and use it often.

How:

1. Kneel on your mat with your legs together.

2. Bend over at your waist and rest your stomach on your thighs, put your forehead on the floor.

3. You can either: put your hands out in front of you to elongate your spine and maximize the stretch or, you can relax and put your arms, palm up, on either side of you. You choose.

4. Hold the pose as long as you want. Try not to fall asleep. Breathe deeply.

4. Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)

Bow PoseYeah, this one looks a little weird but I promise when your body is mangled in that position you are going to have one awesome stretch. Doing this pose frequently is going to increase the flexibility of your legs, back and arms. I guess it’s an all-over body pleaser (although you may be sore after trying this the first or fifth time – stick it out).

How:

1. Lay down on your stomach on your mat.

2. Bend your right leg at the knee and bring it towards your butt.

3. At the same time, lift your torso up slightly off the floor and reach behind you with your right arm to grab the ankle of your bent right leg.

4. Hold this pose for five deep breaths.

5. If you don’t feel the stretch yet you can pull your leg a bit closer to you and arch your back a bit more. If you’re really feeling ambitious, and want to be like that woman in the picture, bend both legs at the knee and grab both ankles with the respective arms.

5. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

Cobra PoseNot only is this a good flexibility builder, it’ll relieve any lower back pain you may have. Things like sciatica can be almost unbearable and this pose takes the pressure off and gives you a moment of peace… as long as your arms don’t give out.

How:

1. Lie down on your stomach on the mat.

2. Make sure your feet are sole up and pushing into the mat.

3. Bend your arms and put them on either side of you. Push the palms of your hand into the ground.

4. Raise yourself up and arch your back to a comfortable level. Push your pelvis into the floor and tilt your head up to look towards the sky. Push your chest out and hold the pose for seven deep breaths.