Yoga is a spiritual, mental and physical practice that has been around since ages. With time, people have discovered a number of health benefits associated with yoga. Yoga does more than burning calories and strengthening muscles, it is a workout which involves both body and mind.
As we age, our bodies begin to lose flexibility. Though it is a natural phenomenon, factors such as a sedentary lifestyle, poor posture, and stress exacerbate the loss of flexibility. While most of us exercise to stay physically fit, improving our flexibility should also be part of our goal. A typical reason why some people may consider yoga is that they feel inflexible. Tight hamstrings and shoulders can certainly be a burden. A yoga practice that focuses on poses for body alignment and the reduction of stiffness.
Why focus on flexibility?
Increasing your flexibility has a ton of benefits, including:
• Less muscle tension:
When you stretch your muscles, you’re releasing tension and tightness, which makes movement easier.
• Less pain:
Tense muscles are painful muscles. Better flexibility helps release tension, which can alleviate pressure and stress in areas like your neck, back, and shoulders.
• Lower stress:
Less stress, you say? Sign us up! Releasing tension can help both your body and your mind feel more relaxed.
• Improved circulation:
Flexibility can boost blood flow, and better blood flow can help with muscle recovery. It can also help you avoid that post-workout stiffness.
• Decreased risk of injury:
When your muscles are stronger and more flexible, they become less susceptible to injuries.
• Better posture:
Ever notice how you get all slouchy when your body feels tight and tense? Releasing this tension can help you sit up straight and ease the strain on your muscles.
• Wider range of motion:
Better flexibility makes moving your joints much easier. Now, we’re not saying you’ll reach contortionist-level fluidity, but your normal movements will likely become more fluid.
10 yoga poses for flexibility
The yoga pose has been named after the shape the body takes while performing it – that of a bow. Dhanurasana is a powerful asana that can help you improve the flexibility of muscles of your core, back, chest, glutes, and legs.
2. Upavistha Konasana
Better known as wide-angle seated forward bend, the intense stretch pose helps open your hips and lower your back while improving flexibility in your thighs and calves. The asana helps prepare your body for most of the seated forward bends, twists, and wide leg standing poses.
It is a deep stretch yoga asana that opens the chest, lengthens the spine, and improves muscle strength. Anjaneyasana is known to help increase post-workout recovery, increase energy levels, and improve posture. Regular practice of this asana can also help tone the body, calm the mind, and ease sciatica pain.
4. Marjaryasana – Bitilasana
Commonly referred to as the cat-cow pose, Marjaryasana – Bitilasana is a combination of two yoga asanas that are performed together to gently warm up the body and prepare it for more challenging postures. The asana improves posture, brings flexibility to the spine, and counterbalances the effects of prolonged sitting.
Also known as intense side stretch pose, parsvottanasana is a powerful yoga asana that helps stretch your hip muscles and hamstrings (muscles at the back of your thigh) and lengthen the spine. Regular practice of this asana can help you correct your body posture, improve digestion, and improve your mood.
Standing forward bend, or uttanasana, is a common yoga pose, performed in the sun salutation sequences and ideal for beginners. It will improve hamstring flexibility.
7. Baddha Konasana
Butterfly pose also known as bound angle pose is a gentle and restorative posture, often practiced at either the very beginning or very end of practice. It is a hip opener for the inner hips and groin area.
Child’s pose, or balasana, is a calming and grounding posture. It may not be the flashiest of yoga stretches, or even offer the most intense stretch, but it is still known as one of the best yoga stretches for lower backs.
9. Adho Mukha Svanasana
Downward facing dog, or adho mukha svanasana, is another essential pose for any yogi. Like standing forward bend, it also targets hamstring flexibilitiy. However, it will help strengthen the back, shoulders, and arms at the same time.
Garland pose, also called malasana in Sanskrit, is a wonderful yoga stretch for the ankles and soles of the feet. It also intensely stretches the groins, inner thigh muscles, and low back.
Most of the aforementioned yoga poses are simple and easy to perform. However, it is recommended not to force yourself into any position that triggers pain or discomfort. You may be able to perform a pose only for a few seconds initially but that is completely fine. The time duration would increase with increased flexibility.
Consult your physician or an experienced yoga instructor before you start doing yoga. This is especially important for people who:
• Have injury or pain
• Are pregnant or menstruating
• Have hypertension (high blood pressure)
• Have hypotension (low blood pressure)
• Have heart or lung problems
• Have digestive conditions
Remember, ultimately, that yoga is not about who is the most flexible or able to go the deepest in each pose. However, having a flexible body will enable your mind to be flexible. You may find it easier to sit in meditation. After all, the main goal of all asanas, or yoga poses, is to enable the body to more comfortably sit in meditation.