Want to be more flexible? Try these yoga poses.
It’s no secret that doing yoga regularly can increase your flexibility. But some people may think you have to already have the flexibility in order to practice effectively. Wrong! Even the most inflexible can build better flexibility over time, and doing yoga every day is the perfect way to achieve that. Practice the yoga poses below to prepare your body to conquer even the most bendy yoga poses down the road.
By Kelsey Patterson
Standing Forward Bend
While standing with your feet together, hinge forward and fold at the hips. Grab onto your elbows, or for more intensity, grab your ankles. Beginning with this pose stretches your lower body, including your hips, hamstrings and calves. It also prepares your body for more advanced poses to come and strengthens your thighs and knees, all while producing calming effects.
Floor Hip Stretch
Focusing on your hip flexors, this seated stretch begins to open your lower body. When you bend toward the floor, hold the pose once you feel a gentle stretch. Inhale as you raise your chest, then each time you exhale, fall deeper into a forward stretch to allow your body to slowly and steadily increase flexibility.
This pose introduces your body to being stable while your feet are not parallel. In this pose, your front foot faces forward while your back foot is turned out to the side. As your hips open to the side of your mat, you stretch and strengthen your lower body as you tuck your tailbone in and up.
Downward Dog Split Pose
From a downward facing dog position, move into downward dog split pose, also known as three-legged dog, by slowly raising one foot. In the peak of this pose, your extended leg should create a smooth line from hip to ankle. Repeat this pose with the opposite leg to begin stretching your legs, one forward and one back, just as monkey pose will require.
This pose offers a deep hip stretch and allows you to practice lifting up your chest and supporting your bodyweight with your hands. From the downward dog split position, swing your extended leg forward and settle it in front of you, bent and positioned near your wrist. If you feel comfortable, you may reach your hands in front of you for a forward fold, though you should only increase the intensity of the stretch until you feel a gentle pull of your muscles.
Supine Splits with Strap
If your hamstrings still feel a little tight, this supported split will help you stretch at your own discretion. If you don’t have a yoga strap, try using a tie or belt to pull your foot closer to your chest while keeping the other leg extended on the floor. You may have the urge to tug and release the strap quickly to “butterfly” your leg, but a safer (and more effective) approach is to pull with the strap for a few breaths, then slowly release.
Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend
This is the final preparation stretch that will get you ready to master monkey pose. Place your legs straight out and widen them as far as they can go, pinning them downward to the floor and keeping your knees facing up. Lift your body slightly to slide your bottom forward, deepening the stretch. Once your legs are stretched as wide as you can, bend your chest toward the floor and touch your toes with your hands. Be careful not to bounce in this position; hold the stretch for a few breaths and lift up slowly.
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All images courtesy of Womanista.com / Kelsey Patterson.