6 Flexibility-Enhancing Yoga Poses
Think bendy and strong.
We’re not the first (we won’t be the last, friends) to tell you stretching is important. Practically every exercise ethos incorporates at least 10 minutes to loosening and lengthening just-exhausted muscles. But, we have been known to skimp out on the last few minutes of class (because life—we’re sure you can relate). The thing is, it’s actually one of the most important parts of any fitness routine. Hell, some workouts are exclusively dedicated to relaxing said stiff muscles. There’s good reason, too—having bendy muscles not only let’s you do cool things like the moves you'll soon see (look :point_down: ), it also increases the efficiency of your workouts (that means less squats!) and prevents you from injury.
So, if you’re like us and spend most of your days hunched over your computer or cell and are ignoring your increasingly less elastic muscles (we’re partly in denial, okay?), you’re going to want to pay attention here because Tara Stiles, of Strala Yoga, breaks down a seriously elongating flow.
Move #1 :
Start standing with one knee hugged gently toward your chest. Soften your standing knee, and roll gently around in your hips. Now you're movable, so let's move! Take a big breath in, lifting your hands and knee high, hips open. As you exhale, dive forward, bring your palms to the ground, and rock forward while rolling your hips open. Keep your legs relaxed, and move your body from your middle. You might rock right into a handstand, keeping one leg forward and one back, both legs relaxed, knees bent, finding an easy balance. You might just rock your hips forward while breathing in, putting weight in your arms as you roll your hips open, and then rock gently back while breathing out, relaxing your body so it's ready to rock again. If you hold the balance, it's playtime! Stay relaxed enough in your body that it can find its own balance easily, as you roll gently around in your hips. Maybe you stretch your legs straight up, or split side to side, or wrap them around each other. From easy, you can do anything!
Move #2 :
Split to Rockstar
From down dog, take a big inhale to lift your right leg high, gently rolling the hip open and keeping your knees softly bent if that feels good. As you exhale, drop your knee down and across your body, letting it bend as it moves, then lengthen your leg as your right foot lands softly on the ground outside your left hand. Press into your right palm as you inhale to lift your hips and open your chest. As you exhale, soften both your knees, then inhale to pull your right leg back through, up and open into down dog split. Repeat on the other side!
Move #3 :
Split to Flying Crow
From down dog split, right leg high, take a big inhale to open your hips, then easy exhale to bend and arc your knee high around to your upper right arm. Gently bend your right arm to make a little shelf for your knee, then look forward and lean forward into a balance. If it's easy for you to lean into this, you can soften your back knee and pull it toward you, gently lifting your back foot off the ground, no jumping required! You can lift that left leg high if that feels good to you. You're flying! Ease out of it by re-bending your left knee and lowering your foot softly back to the ground, then take a big inhale to pull your right leg high to a down dog split. If your back foot doesn't lift easily, no problem! Just soften your back knee and roll gently around in your hips, getting to know your body all around the pose. Try lifting your hips a little higher, by bringing your back foot in a bit closer. Keep exploring gently in every direction you can move, and soon enough even the hardest poses are no problem at all! Now try it on the other side.
Move #4 :
Split to Twisted Balance
From down dog split, right leg high, take a big inhale to open your hips, then easy exhale to drop your knee down and across your body, letting the knee bend as it moves. Bend your elbows to make a little shelf for your upper right thigh on your upper left arm. You can rest your right toes on the ground as you move into this, then look forward and lean forward into the balance. If it's easy for you to lean into this, your back foot will lift gently off the ground. Now you can play around, maybe by extending both legs straight. To come out of this, soften both knees as you gently lower your right toes then left toes to the ground. Keep both knees soft as you press into your palms, and inhale to lift your hips high and right leg back through and open to a down dog split. If it's not so easy to lift into the balance, there's plenty to do with your feet on the ground! Just keep your knees soft, and roll gently around in your hips with your right thigh resting on your left upper arm. Get to know your body this way, and hard things will become easy soon enough! Now give it all a try on the other side.
Move #5 :
Take a big inhale to lift into a high lunge with right leg forward, arms straight up. As you exhale, roll your belly toward the right, soften your back knee, and ease into a twist, arms open wide. Breathe in to tip back for a reverse twist, lifting your hips and left arm high. Breathe out to tip forward into a revolved half moon, left fingertips to the ground, and right arm either high or reaching around to gently hold your left ankle. Whatever feels best to you is the right thing to do! Take a breath here, then soften both your knees as you exhale, gently release your foot, and roll your hips open to the other side. You can retake your foot, or keep your foot free! Again whatever feels good is the best thing you can do. Take a big breath to open up your belly and chest, then soften both knees as you exhale, gently reaching your left toes toward the back of your mat, and ease into a nice Warrior 2. Now give it a go on the other side!
Move #6 :
Rolling High Lunge Twists
Take a big inhale to lift your high lunge extra-high, with your right leg forward, both legs and arms straight. As you exhale, roll your belly toward the right and soften your back knee as you ease into a twist, arms wide. Then a big inhale rolls your belly and chest forward and up, hips lift, legs straight, arms open high. Roll through these a few times, then go for it on the other side!