Performing yoga poses for flexibility is important for people who find themselves to be stiff and lacking in mobility.
Though it is good to know that flexibility does not only come with physical benefits but psychological benefits as well. Flexibility can help you release tension from your body which your mind then follows.
The question right now for you may be, how long would it take you to achieve your flexibility goals?
To cut it short, the sooner you begin training, the earlier that you will receive results. In addition to this, if you want to be more flexible in a shorter time, make sure that you exercise and practice regularly, if you have free time, you can do easy and simple poses or exercises that can be done while seated or standing.
Yoga poses for flexibility
1. Downward-facing dog
The downward-facing dog is one of the most common yoga poses that you will come across, this is because practitioners and instructors find the pose to be highly versatile. The name of this pose was derived from the way dogs stretch their bodies. This pose can be used as a strength-builder, transition, or resting pose.
How to do this pose:
- Start with both your hands and knees on your yoga mat. Your knees should be directly under your hips while your wrists are directly under your shoulders.
- Stretch and relax both your elbows and upper back. Spread and stretch your fingers as your press steadily against your mat.
- Make sure to evenly distribute your weight to both hands.
- Exhale and tuck your toes as you prepare to raise your knees from the floor.
- As you raise your knees, pull your pelvis towards the ceiling, straighten your legs until you form an ‘A’ shape. Keep your legs straight and do not tighten or lock your knees.
- At the same time, lengthen your spine while pulling your bottom towards the ceiling. Then press down on both your palms and heels.
- Rotate your arms outward, move your chest closer to your thighs as you continue to press against the mat. This will stretch and decompress your spine.
- Rotate your thighs to meet while stretching your sit bones towards the ceiling. Firmly plant your heels on the floor.
- Bow your head, aligning your ears with your upper arms. Do not let your head dangle, but make sure that you are relaxed.
- Keep your gaze between your navel or between your thighs.
- Hold this pose for several breaths.
- When releasing, during an exhale, slowly bend your knees and return to your hands and knees.
2. Cobra pose
The cobra pose is well-known for giving your spine a nice, deep stretch. This pose mainly focuses on increasing and promoting the flexibility of your spine while stretching other areas of your body such as your shoulders and chest.
How to do this pose:
- Start by lying down on your mat, faced-down. Keep your legs extended with just a few inches apart. Your feet should be straight as well and resting on the mat.
- Move your hands under your shoulders with your fingers pointed in front. Your elbows should hug the sides of your body.
- Stretch and spread your toes.
- On an inhale, slowly lift your head together with your chest off your yoga mat, make sure your ribs stay connected to the floor.
- Pull your shoulders back while keeping your chest forward. Your shoulders should be away from your ears. If you are having neck pain, maintain your gaze on the floor, do not force yourself. As for those who are more flexible, bring your gaze upward.
- Start to lift yourself from the floor by straightening your arms, keep pushing your thighs against the floor as well. This is what you call low cobra.
- When lifting your body do not exert too much effort. Allow your bend to feel as natural as possible. You shouldn’t feel that much weight on your palms. You will be able to lift them for a moment during the pose.
- Regularly press your shoulder back against your upper back. Your elbows should be kept in a hugging position. Spread your collar bones and lift your chest. The back bend should be felt evenly throughout your spine.
- Stay in this pose for thirty seconds. When releasing, exhale and gently return your forehead and chest on your mat. Turn your head to your right, allowing it to rest. Relax your arms as well by placing them on the sides of your body. Repeat this pose as much as needed and recommended.
3. Bow pose
Beginners may find the bow pose a little bit more challenging compared to the first yoga poses found on this list. The bow pose gives a deep stretch on both your back, arms, and front torso.
This pose is ideal for those people who tend to spend a lot of time on their desk or have desk jobs. Including those people who engage in sports that often make the body bend forward such as cycling and swimming.
How to do this pose:
- Start this pose by lying down on your stomach while your chin is rested on your yoga mat. Your arms should be on your sides.
- Take a few breaths and on an exhale, bend your knees. Move the heels of your feet as close to your buttocks as possible (do not force yourself to reach what your body is incapable of), your knees should be apart at hip-distance.
- With your hands, reach back and hold on your outer ankles.
- During an inhale, raise your heels and draw your thighs off your yoga mat. At the same time, your upper torso, chest, and head should also go up. Move and push your tailbone against the floor as you lift your thighs and heels even higher. Keep your chest up and push your shoulders to your upper back. Your shoulders should be away from your ears.
- Keep your gaze forward and take deep and low breaths.
- Hold this pose for thirty seconds.
- When releasing, during an exhale, bring down your things on the mat. Slowly release your legs and feet on the floor. Turn your head to the right and relax both arms to the sides. After a few breaths, repeat the same procedure and hold the pose with the same time duration but when releasing, you should turn your head on the left side when relaxing.
4. Seated forward bend
The seated forward bend is a yoga pose that helps to calm and reduce stress. This pose is done when the body is warm and to prepare you for deeper asanas.
The seated forward bend requires a lot of flexibility, but remember to not force yourself or your body if you are still a beginner or if your body is not yet that flexible.
How to do this pose:
- Sit on the edge of your yoga mat with both of your legs extended in front and reach for your heels. If you are a beginner, keep your knees bent during the pose and gradually straighten it as your flexibility increases.
- On an inhale, move your arms to the side then move them overhead so that your spine will lengthen.
- Exhale and bend from your hip joint. Your bend should not come from the waist. Lengthen your front body with your upper body resting on your things while your nose rests on your knees.
- Firmly hold onto your feet, ankles, or shins – depending on where your body is capable of reaching. You can make use of a yoga strap or towel to wrap around your feet while holding onto it firmly.
- Make sure to keep your upper body straight and long, do not bend your back. Your belly should make contact with your legs, followed by your chest, nose, then head.
- On every inhale, keep on lengthening and stretching your front body, and with every exhale fold a little bit deeper.
- Hold this pose for one minute. To release, move your tailbone to the floor as you inhale and raise your upper body.
5. Standing forward fold
This pose helps your mind and body by calming your mind and rejuvenating and stretching your entire body. This pose is also used as a preparation for deeper forward bends during your yoga practice.
This yoga pose can give your back a deep and intense stretch, including your hamstrings. The same goes with the seated version of this pose, you should not force your body to reach the full pose if your body is not yet capable.
It is advised that you relax and calm your mind during this pose as the more relaxed you are the deeper and more intense your stretch will feel.
How to do this pose:
- Start by executing the mountain pose, with both your hands placed on your hips.
- Take a few breaths and when you exhale, bend forward at your hips, this should lengthen your torso.
- Bend both of your elbows and hold each one using the opposite hand. Let the top of your head hang as you bend. Plant your heels to the floor as you raise your sit bones upward. Rotate your upper thighs slightly inwards but do not lock your knees.
- If you are flexible enough and can keep both your torso and knees straight, reach the floor beside your feet using your fingertips. Align your fingertips with your toes and press your palms against the mat. If you want or can, you can even reach as far and behind your ankles.
- Engage your front thigh muscles and stretch them upward. The more you stretch and engage your thigh muscles, the more your rear thigh muscles will stretch and release as well.
- Your weight should be placed on the balls of your feet while your hips should be aligned with your ankles.
- Just by a little bit, lift and stretch your upper body with every inhale. Give deeper to the pose and just let your head hang.
- Stay in this pose for one minute. To release this pose, return your hands to your hips and draw through your tailbone. Keep your back straight and flat when you return to the original pose.
6. Wide-angle seated forward bend
The wide-angle seated forward bend is a yoga pose that requires a lot of flexibility for the user to achieve its full form. But as mentioned numerous times, do not force your body beyond its capabilities.
This pose is often performed near the end of a yoga session or as preparation for deeper bends. The main benefit that you can get from this pose is a deep stretch for both your legs and spine and providing a calm mind and relief from stress.
How to do this pose:
- Sit on the edge of your yoga mat, with both of your legs straight in front of you (this starting position resembles that of the staff pose).
- Slightly lean your torso back with both of your hands supporting you. Spread your legs as wide as your body enables it then press the palms of your hands firmly against the floor as to help move your buttock forward, allowing your legs to spread further.
- The top of your kneecaps and toes should point upward. Engage your thighs by pressing your legs against the floor. Stretch through your heels.
- Keep your back straight and long. Start to move your hands towards the center of your legs. Do not hunch your back. Keep moving forward until where your body permits you to.
- Keep adjusting your body to bend until you start to feel your hamstrings being stretched. If you feel any pain or discomfort reduce the bend of your body or stop.
- When you reach the furthest that your body allows, using both arms to the sides and hold on to your big toes. Bend your elbows and keep your torso long. Your gaze should be forward with your chin resting on the yoga mat.
- Stay in this pose for three minutes. To release, gently move your hands towards your body, helping your body to stay upright. Bend both your knees and return to the original position.
7. King dancer pose
The King Dancer is a pose that is intended for intermediate practitioners and is done while standing. This pose makes use of both flexibility and balance and comes in two variations.
The first one is the advanced pose that makes you hold on to you raised foot with both hands overhead. The second one is only making use of one hand to hold your foot.
How to do this pose:
- Start this pose with the Mountain pose. Stand with both of your feet together and your arms placed on the sides.
- Place your weight on your left foot.
- Bend your right leg and move your right heel towards your right buttock. With your right hand, reach your right foot’s inner ankle (you can make use of a strap of wrap around your right foot). Move your knees closer.
- Raise your left arm overhead with your fingers pointed to the ceiling and your palm facing right.
- Keep your gaze in front of you. Your left kneecap and toes should point forward.
- If you feel balanced and comfortable with your pose, start to move your right foot away from your body as you lean forward. Keep your chest lifted and your left fingertips pointed upward.
- Lift your right foot as high as you are able to and make sure that your left thigh is parallel to the floor or higher. Push your tailbone to the floor so that your lower back is stretched. Make sure that your right knee does not go side-ward.
- If you are flexible and sturdy during this time, you can proceed to the advance pose by swiveling your right arm forward and upward. You’re gonna have to drop your shoulder in order to adjust. Move your right bicep near your right ear, this should cause your right forearm to reach overhead and behind you so that you can take hold of the strap. Bend your left elbow and reach your left hand to the back, to take hold of the strap as well. Move your arms inward, closer to your head while pressing your shoulder blades down your back.
- While moving your raised foot backward, make sure that your chest remains lifted. Do not let it drop and your pelvis squared while your right knee is drawn to the midline of your body.
- If you are making use of a strap, keep moving your hands until you grab a hold of your foot with both hands.
- Stay in this pose for five breaths. When you’re ready to release, slowly go back to the starting position. Repeat the same process on the same side.
8. Butterfly pose
The butterfly pose is seated and a common yoga pose that helps to open up the hips and groins. This is ideal for many people as tight hips is something that a lot of people have due to sitting for long periods of time.
When practiced regularly, this pose can help reduce stiffness and pain to your hips which will allow you to have more access to other movements.
How to do this pose:
- Start by sitting on your yoga mat while doing the staff pose. Do this by keeping your back straight and your legs straight in front of you. Place and rest your arms at the sides.
- Bend both your knees and move your heels near your pelvis. Press the soles of your feet against each other and drop your knees on the sides. If your knees are unable to touch the floor, do not force them to make contact, just let them be. It is advised that you never push your knees towards the floor.
- Hold on to your toes using your two first fingers. Push the outsides of your feet together and on the floor.
- Keep your back straight and feel the length of your spine.
- Keep your gaze straight
- Stay in this pose for five minutes and release. When releasing, remove first your grip on your toes then slowly raise your knees and straighten your legs, returning to the staff pose.
9. Pigeon pose
Having tight hips is fairly common. Especially if you engage in activities or sports such as jumping, running, this can cause your outer hips to tighten, while seating for a long period can make your front hips flexors short and stiff.
Fortunately, this pose can make those problems go away. The pigeon pose is an effective and well-known hip opener that can highly increase and promote better flexibility in the areas of the hip joints.
How to do this pose:
- Start by either by executing the downward-facing dog or the table pose.
- Move your right knee in between both of your hands, with your right ankle close to your left wrist. Straighten your left leg behind so that both your left kneecap and the top of your foot is resting on your mat.
- Push through the tips of your fingers as you move your upper body away from your thigh. Lengthen or straighten your front body. Pull your tailbone towards your heel. Square both of your hips and front body to the front of your yoga mat.
- Move down your right shin and balance evenly your weight on both hips. Flex your forward foot and push using the toes of your back foot.
- Keep your gaze down.
- Stay in this pose for a minute. When ready to release, tuck the toes of your back foot and raise your back knee off the yoga mat to return to the downward-facing dog pose. Repeat the same process on the other side.
10. Cow face pose
The cow face pose is a yoga pose executed while sitting down and can bring deep stretches to both your shoulders and hips.
This pose can bring balance to your body, calm your mind, and correct bad posture habits by balancing both the right and left sides of your body while stretching the upper and bottom sides as well.
How to do this pose:
- Begin by doing the Staff pose. Do this by stretching your legs in front of you with your arms resting at the sides.
- Bend both of your knees by placing the soles of your feet flat on your yoga mat. Move your left foot under your right knee and continue to slide until it is outside of your right hip. Place your right knee on your left foot. This time, slide your right foot to the outside of your hip on the left. Balance your weight by shifting it from side to side until you feel that it is evenly distributed.
- Raise your left arm upward with your palm facing front. Then bend your elbow to move your hand towards your spine.
- Straighten your right arm down to the side with the palm faced down. Rotate your arm inward so that your palm is facing behind you. This time, bend your right elbow and move your hand towards the middle of your back. Tuck into the hollow of your back your forearm.
- Roll both your shoulders down and back. If you can, hook both hands to each other. Keep your top elbow pointed to the ceiling while the lower one is pointed to the floor. Keep drawing both elbows into the body, prevent them from going out to the sides. The top elbow should be right next to your head.
- Firmly press your shoulder blades against the back of your ribs. Move your lower ribs in and do not stretch them out. Broaden your collar bones and move your gaze up, your breathing soft.
- Stay in this pose for one minute. Then softly release both your arms and straighten your legs, returning to the staff pose. Repeat the process on the opposite side with the same amount of time.
11. Camel pose
The camel pose is a backbend pose that provides your front body with a deep stretch. This pose is done while you’re on your knees and is commonly done as preparation for a more deep backbend.
This pose can relieve you from neck and back pain which is often caused by sitting in front of the computer for too long or driving.
How to do this pose:
- Start by kneeling with your back upright and your knees at a hip-width distance apart. Rotate both your thighs inward with both your shins and the top of your feet resting on your yoga mat. While doing this, refrain from squeezing your buttocks.
- Place and rest your arms on the back of your pelvis. Your fingers should point to the floor. Straighten your tailbone to the floor and widen your pelvis at the back.
- Lean backward. Your chin should be slightly tucked towards your chest. For beginners, you can stay in this position with both of your hands at the back of your pelvis.
- If you feel comfortable enough with this pose, you can take it deeper by reaching your arms backward for your hands to reach and hold on to both heels. The palm of your hands should rest on top of your heels with your fingers pointing to the direction of your toes while your thumbs are holding the outside of your feet.
- Your thighs should be perpendicular to the floor while your hips are directly over both your knees. If you find it hard to hold your heels due to the compressed feeling on your lower back then curl your toes to elevate your heels. You can also make use of a yoga block to rest your hands on. Place the blocks on the sides of each foot.
- Raise by using your pelvis and keep the length of your spine. Rotate your arms outward without having to squeeze your shoulder blades. Your head should be in a neutral position, you can let it drop just make sure that your neck is not strained or crunched.
- Stay in this pose for thirty to sixty seconds. When you’re ready to release, move your hands to the front of your hips. When you inhale, start with your heart and raise your upper body through pushing your hips towards the floor. Your head should follow last.
12. Bridge pose
This yoga pose helps in stretching your thighs and opening your chest. This pose is often done to prepare practitioners for deeper backbends while for its restorative version, it is done with a yoga block.
How to do this pose:
- Begin by lying down on your yoga mat. Your knees should be bent and your feet on top of your yoga mat. Lay straight both your arms along the floor with your palms flat.
- Push both your feet and arms firmly against the floor. On an exhale, raise your hips upward to the ceiling.
- Move your tailbone to your pubic bone, keep still and hold your buttocks off your yoga mat. Refrain from flexing your buttocks or squeezing your glutes.
- Roll both of your shoulders back, underneath the body. Firmly clasp your hands and straighten your arms on the yoga mat beneath your pelvis. Keep your arms straight and press your forearms into your mat. Move your knuckles towards your heels.
- Your thighs and feet should be parallel. Your weight should be evenly distributed on all the four corners of your feet.
- Straighten and stretch your tailbone to the back of your knees.
- Stay in this pose for one minute. When releasing, unclasp both your hands and move them to the sides of your body – palms down. On an exhale, gently roll your spine on your yoga mat and allow both knees to drop.
13. Reclined big toe pose
Whether you engage in activities such as swimming, biking, and other sports or you just spend a lot of time sitting down, you will eventually have to deal with tight hamstrings.
Stiffness in your rear thigh muscles can be brought about by both overuse and underuse. Fortunately, engaging and doing yoga regularly can help prevent your hamstrings from being stiff and can regain more flexibility.
The reclining big toe pose in particular provides a gentle stretch to your hamstrings which can be modified according to your preference.
Using this pose to your advantage can earn you a wider range of motion in your thighs which can help you indulge in activities with ease.
When doing this pose, it is good to take note that you shouldn’t force your hamstrings into flexibility. Keep practicing yoga regularly so that you can acquire the flexibility that you desire.
Forcing your hamstrings to stretch can do the opposite and make them less flexible.
How to do this pose:
- Begin by lying down on your back with both legs extended and your arms rested at the sides. Relax your breathing and clear your mind of any thoughts.
- Take a few breaths and when you inhale, bend your right knee and move your thigh towards your chest to hug. Your left leg should remain extended. With the use of a strap, wrap it around the ball of your right foot, hold the strap on each end. Maintain a soft grip but one that is not too loose.
- On an exhale, straighten and extend your right knee and point your right heel towards the ceiling. Your right foot should be flexed while your buttocks should be equally balanced on your yoga mat. Raise through your right big toe’s ball.
- Move down the strap slightly and when you do, let your thigh bone’s head (the one that connects to your hip socket) to release and rest on your pelvis. You should feel your lower back pressed against the floor.
- Push slightly your shoulder blades against the floor and open your collarbones. Straighten the back of your neck. The muscles of your buttocks should relax on the floor.
- Keep your gaze at either your right toe or the ceiling.
- Hold this pose for one to three minutes.
- If you want a deeper stretch, hold the strap with your right hand and point your leg outwards to your right. The movement should come from the head of your right thigh and not from your heel. Your left thigh should remain pressed down. Lower your raised leg to your right. Allow your toes to hang a few inches from the mat while your leg is outly rotated. Hold this pose for thirty seconds and return your heel up towards the ceiling.
- As you exhale, move your knees towards your chest and let go of the strap. Slowly release your leg by extending it on the floor.
- Repeat the process on the opposite side with the same amount of time.
14. Three-legged downward dog pose
The three-legged downward dog pose is a variation of the downward facing dog pose. This pose lets you raise one leg in the air which can help train your balance while letting your hips open.
How to do this pose:
- Start with your hands and knees. Your wrists should be directly aligned under your shoulders while your knees are under your hips. Your wrist folds should be parallel with the front edge of your mat. Place your hands on the edge of your yoga mat with your fingers pointing forward.
- Relax and stretch your shoulders and upper back.
- Spread and stretch your fingers. Push firmly through your knuckles and palms. Balance your weight on both hands.
- On an exhale, tuck the toes of your feet and raise both your knees off your yoga mat. Raise your pelvis upwards and drag your sit bones backwards. Slowly straighten both legs but make sure not to lock your knees. You should be able to make an “A” shape with your body. Think of both of your thighs and hips being pulled back from your thighs. Keep the distance between your hands and feet. You are now doing the downward-facing dog.
- Move your feet closer together. Now with both your legs and arms straighten, inhale and raise your right leg backwards in the air while pointed up. Flex your feet and reach by your heel.
- Rotate your raised leg internally so that both your knee and top of your foot will point towards your yoga mat. This may slightly cause your right hip to go down. Reach further to your heel and move up again through your back thigh.
- Maintain stability with your left leg while your shoulders squared. Think of your hands and heels in a straight diagonal line.
- Push against the floor to raise and lift using your pelvis. Firm your outer arm’s muscles and push your index fingers against the floor. Move your shoulder blades to your upper back and into your tailbone. Open your collarbone.
- Maintain balance and strength with your standing leg. Plant your heels on the floor.
- Align your upper arms and ears. Relax your head but don’t allow it to dangle. Place your gaze on your navel or between your legs.
- Hold this position for five to twenty breaths.
- When ready to release, exhale and lower your raised foot to your yoga mat, next to your standing foot. Repeat the process on the opposite side.
The pyramid pose contains benefits from three main movements: the backward bend, forward bend, and balance. To do this standing yoga pose, you need to have focus and a calm mindset so that you remain firm and balanced while executing the yoga pose.
This pose can provide equal stretching on both sides of your body simultaneously. This is commonly done as preparation for backbends, inversions, twists, and forward folds.
How to do this pose:
- Start this pose by standing on top of your yoga mat with your arms placed at the sides. Turn to your left step your feet to create a three or four feet gap. Move your hands to your hips. Your heels should be aligned then rotate your feet to ninety degrees, your toes should be pointing at the top of your yoga mat. As for your left toes, point them towards the top-left corner of your yoga mat in sixty degrees. You should be in a scissor stance by now with your feet at a hip-width distance.
- Keep your feet planted in place and turn your upper body towards the direction of your forward foot. Distribute your weight evenly through the big toe of your forward foot and the outer side of your rear foot.
- Move your left hip a little bit forward so that your hips are squared to the top of your yoga mat. Drag your shoulder blades towards your back but make sure not to let your lower ribs bulge forward.
- As you inhale, reach out your arms to your sides and during and exhale, move your arms to your back. Clutch both elbow using the opposite hand. If you are flexible enough, move your hands to execute the reverse prayer pose by pressing both of your palms together and letting your fingers reach your head.
- Inhale and lengthen your upper body and when you exhale, fold through your hips and elongate your upper body over your forward leg. Remain your shoulders drawn back but refrain from over arching your lower back. Keep your spine straight and your head forward while your tailbone is drawing behind you. Again, do not fold from your waist but your hips.
- Firmly plant the heel of your rear foot. Keep your gaze towards your forward foot’s big toe and stay in this pose for one minute.
- When you’re ready to release, push through the heel of your back foot and gently raise your torso. Release both arms and place your palms on your hips. Switch the position of your feet and repeat the process on the other side.