As a yoga instructor I often hear, “I’m not flexible so I don’t do yoga.” Here’s the thing. You don’t have to be flexible to do yoga. As a matter of fact, the practice of yoga involves being present while breathing consciously — the asanas (poses) are only one aspect.
Flexibility is how much movement you have in your joints. Regular activity and different types of stretching can improve your flexibility and you can work on less flexible joints to make them more flexible.
Your overall flexibility is affected by:
- your gender
- your age
- how active you are
- your body shape
The good news is no matter where you start, yoga will always meet you there. So be gentle with yourself, let go of self-judgment and see if you can simply become aware of your breath as you try one or all of the following poses to increase your flexibility.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
- Opens the pelvic floor, hips and low back
- Alleviates head, neck and chest pain
- Opens the upper back
Bonus: Calms the mind, reduces stress
- Sit on your heels with your shoulders above your hips.
- Bow forward and gently place your chest on your thighs, resting your forehead on the floor.
- Option to bring your arms forward and walk your fingertips away from your shoulders.
- Option to open your knees wide, big toes touch and melt your heart towards the floor.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Notice if you’re holding or clenching. Relax your face, soften your jaw. Stay here for a few cycles of breath.
- Increases spinal flexibility
- Opens the lower back and abdominal cavity
- Opens the chest, throat and shoulders
Bonus: Energizes the mind, reduces stress
- Begin on your hands and knees with a neutral spine, making sure your shoulders are stacked directly over your wrists and your knees are directly under your hips.
- Lift your chest, lift your head as you tilt your pelvis upward.
- Press your hands into the floor as you round your spine up toward the ceiling, tilting your pelvis down and scooping your tailbone.
- Repeat for 5-10 breaths remembering to inhale as you lift and exhale as you round.
- Push back into Child’s Pose and rest for a few breaths.
See if you can close your eyes, turning your attention inward.
Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
- Strengthens the arms, legs and torso
- Stretches the palms, chest, back, hamstrings, calves and feet
- Energizes the body
Bonus: Improves focus, develops willpower
1.Begin on your hands and knees. Set your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Spread your fingers as wide as you can, press your palms firmly into the floor, index fingers point forward and turn your toes under. Inhale.
2.Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor. Keep the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted away from the floor. Lift your hips and press your sitting bones toward the ceiling.
3.Inhale. Then with an exhalation, press your top thighs back and stretch your heels down toward the floor. Don’t worry if your heels don’t touch the floor. Keep your knees soft, and gently start to straighten. Don’t force – only go as far as feels comfortable in your body. Breathe.
4.Press your palms firmly into the mat as you push away, lengthening your spine. Draw your shoulder blades down and keep your head between the upper arms, biceps by your ears.
Stay in this pose anywhere from 5 to 10 breaths. Then bend your knees to the floor with an exhalation and rest in Child’s Pose.
Notice how you feel. Stay focused on your breath.
When you’re ready, take Savasana.