Yoga is about much more than being able to touch your toes or do a handstand. Doing yoga does wonders for the mind as well as the body.
It is an incredible experience to realize all the amazing physical benefits of doing yoga!
The more your yoga practice develops, the more you notice a better sense of lightness, mobility, and strength in your body. If your main focus is to build mobility, your practice should be centered around poses for flexibility.
Here are 10 of the top yoga for flexibility poses that anyone – beginner or advanced yogi – can do.
1. Forward Fold
Most people don’t have the flexibility to touch their toes during their first yoga class. In fact, for many yogis, it can take a while to go from barely bending over to finally being able to reach the ground without having any bend in the knees.
But you have to start somewhere! Be gentle and patient with your forward folds at first. Let your knees bend as much as they need to in order to give your lower back a release.
Try swinging from side to side a bit, too. That extra movement can help the body wake up after a long day and make this pose feel even better.
Also keep in mind that you can play with how far apart your feet are as you progress in this pose. It’s recommended to start practicing forward fold with your feet a little wider than your hips, then as you progress in the pose, bring them closer and closer together as you’re able to fold deeper and deeper.
While forward fold is great for the lower back and hamstrings, pigeon pose is all about building flexibility in the hips. This is a pose you may need yoga props for at first, but one you’ll be glad you’ve worked on once you can rest bones on the ground.
The easiest form of pigeon pose is to use three blocks. One block goes under your hip and two are placed on either side of your body, where you can rest your hands to hold yourself up. The hip that has a block under it is the hip whose leg is back.
If you don’t need that much support, you can choose not to use the two blocks for your hands and play with the height of the block under your hip. And before you know it, you won’t be reaching for the block at all, but rather enjoying the deep stretch of pigeon – maybe even with a forward fold or a king pigeon variation!
3. Crescent Lunge
If pigeon sounds a little too intense for your current level of hip flexibility, try building flexibility with crescent lunge first. Crescent lunge seems simple, but it’s great for flexibility and strength.
All you have to do is keep your front leg at a 90-degree angle and make sure your hips aren’t sinking – gravity will do the rest. Stay in this pose for a few breaths and you should notice your forward hip opening up, as well as a bit of a quad stretch in your back leg.
Up next on the list of yoga poses for flexibility is triangle pose. Triangle is a standing pose that builds flexibility in the hamstrings, shoulders, and side body.
The key to triangle pose is to keep an equal amount of weight in the front and back leg, and more importantly, to stay engaged in the arms. Your top arm should feel like it’s reaching for something that’s just above your fingertips.
This peels your shoulders open while your back leg and side body enjoy a nice stretch as well.
Malasana is yet another hip-focused yoga pose for flexibility. This is a deep hip stretch that, similar to the pigeon variations mentioned above, might be best to attempt with a block at first.
A full malasana is done by sinking the hips between the legs, with the feet placed wider than the hips and the toes facing outward a bit. Dropping the hips this low allows them to open more so than in other hip-focused poses. To stay balanced, the glutes should be engaged and the elbows are pressed against the knees.
Over time, you can play with making this both a hip opener and a slight chest opener. As you build strength and flexibility in the legs, you can press your chest forward and up a bit while in Malasana to enjoy a subtle, but relaxing, stretch.
6. Seated Spinal Twist
Do you often feel tightness or pain in your back? If so, you should make seated spinal twist a regular part of your yoga practice.
This pose can be as deep and intense or as soft and gentle as you’d like. It’s all about listening to where your body is at that day and finding the balance between pushing and letting go.
Your gaze is what leads this pose. The more you lift your head as you inhale and look further back with an exhale, the deeper your pose will go. You can also try placing your supporting hand further away from your sit bones or a bit closer just to find that perfect spot.
Meanwhile, your other hand should be pressing your bent leg toward your chest. This creates more stability in the pose.
When you come out of this pose, always remember to counter-fold to the opposite side. Your spine will thank you!
Another yoga pose that’s great for spinal flexibility is eagle. Eagle does wonders for the shoulders and upper back. It helps target the tight spots in the body that are a bit harder to reach and it’s also a pose that gives you lots of room to play with your edge.
When you’re feeling tighter, you can do a subtle eagle by not pressing your arms as far away from the body or as close together to one another. If you’re looking for a really deep stretch, all you have to do is adjust the placement of your arms and find the sweet spot for your shoulders to enjoy a nice opening stretch.
8. Supported Fish Pose
Speaking of opening up the shoulders, have you tried laying on a block in supported fish pose?
This is arguably one of the nicest poses for flexibility to relax with. It can be done at the beginning of practice to subtly open the shoulders and warm up the body or at the end of a practice to get a deep stretch and start winding down.
Either way, this is a pose you’re sure to enjoy. All you have to do is place a block in the middle of your back and lay on to it, positioning yourself so that your neck can lean back a bit instead of resting on the block. This will open your shoulders and provide a nice release for the neck, too.
9. Downward Dog
There’s a reason why teachers often offer downward dog as a moment to relax and catch your breath during a class. This pose can be just as restorative as it can be a challenge – it all depends on how you take advantage of being there.
To make your down dog more subtle and relaxing, bend your knees toward the ground a bit and really engage your back and shoulders.
This small adjustment will allow your entire back to get a nice, deep stretch. From the low back all the way to the neck and shoulders, being a little more gentle in your down dog can create wonders for your spine.
10. Child’s Pose
Last, but not least, is one of the most relaxing flexibility focused poses of all – child’s pose. Child’s pose can be great for the shoulders, lower back, and even the side body.
There are two ways to open the shoulders in child’s pose. The first is to press the fingers to the ground so that the palms lift while they’re stretched out in front of you. This creates a subtle stretch.
You can go into a side body stretch from here by moving to either the right or left from the center. Just walk your hands over to one side of the mat or the other and lay your head back down as you would with normal child’s pose. You should feel your side body opening right away!
The other way to benefit the shoulders in this pose is actually to put your hands by your butt. This is done by putting the knees together instead of apart when going into child’s pose. Then, when you lean forward with your chest, reach your arms back to rest by your heels instead of forward.
Yoga for Flexibility, Strength, and More!
Whether you’re practicing your pigeon pose or playing with different variations of child’s pose, doing yoga for flexibility is something you have to try!
This will do wonders for the rest of your practice. It will improve your mobility for other poses and help decrease the chances of injury as you advance.
Not to mention, these poses will bring you peace of mind, more awareness in your body, and plenty of other benefits you can enjoy off the mat. The only way to find out just how effective these poses are is to try them for yourself.
Don’t wait any longer – roll out your mat today and discover what these poses can do for you.