- Wide-legged standing forward bend
- Crescent lunge
- Downward-facing dog
- Intense side stretch
Why is Flexibility Important?
Poses for Upper Back and Shoulders
Now that you know a bit more about why yoga is so beneficial, let’s get into the practice! Here are three yoga poses that will help you improve the flexibility and strength of your upper back and shoulders:
1. Cat-Cow (Marjaryasana/Bitilasana)
This is a simple vinyasa that entails arching and rounding the spine combined with inhaling and exhaling. The cat-cow is a beginner-friendly pose that targets the abdominals and spine. It’s particularly helpful for those who spend a significant amount of time sitting.
2. Sphinx (Salamba Bhujangasana)
Another beginner-friendly pose, the sphinx is a great alternative to the cobra (Bhujangasana) that entails gently raising the torso from a face-down position while the lower body remains on the floor. Since you’re holding yourself up on your forearms, this is a more wrist-friendly backbend than a cobra or up-dog.
3. Bow (Dhanurasana)
This is an intermediate-level yoga pose that is one of the 12 basic Hatha yoga stances. It involves lifting the upper body up and back to open the chest and deeply stretch the spine. This pose can be done regularly as part of your yoga practice, as part of a series of back stretches, or to prepare for a deeper backbend or advanced back-intensive poses. Because it’s an intermediate pose, ensure you have sufficiently warmed up before performing the bow.
Poses for Legs and Hips
These are our top four yoga poses to make your legs and hips more flexible:
1. Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend (Prasarita Padottanasana)
This calming stretch is an alternative to the headstand (Sirsasana) and a good alternative for those experiencing neck issues. On top of improving the flexibility of the legs, hips, and spine, this yoga pose also helps tone the abdominal muscles, alleviate mild back pain, and promote oxygen flow to the brain.
2. Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
This is a popular yoga pose, often familiar to non-yogis, that is part of the Sun Salutation C sequence. The crescent lunge provides a deep stretch in the hips and quadriceps. For those who are more flexible or advanced in their practice, it can even be performed with a deep stretch similar to a backbend.
3. Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
The downward-facing dog is possibly the most popular yoga pose. It’s one of the first poses taught to beginners and remains a constant fixture in everyone’s yoga practice. The downward-facing dog is typically done multiple times in a yoga session, functioning as both a transitional pose and a resting pose. Though it’s taught early and often, downward-facing dog is actually not that easy and can feel quite demanding!
4. Intense Side Stretch (Parsvottanasana)
Don’t let the name intimidate you. The intense side stretch, also known as pyramid pose, is an important addition to any yoga practice, as it helps boost flexibility in the shoulders and hamstrings — both of which are essential to yoga as well as everyday mobility. It’s a deep forward stretch that guides the body into a narrow, constrained stance, so it cultivates integrity, strength, and balance.
Tips to Safely Practice Yoga Poses for Flexibility
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