Yoga is an incredible way to stay active, flexible, and mentally present. It’s a highly enjoyable activity that has benefits for both your body and your mind. There are a variety of poses for beginners and advanced practitioners alike, and all of them can increase your strength, flexibility, balance, stability, and mindfulness. Keep reading this list for ten amazing yoga poses to help increase your flexibility!
1. Standing Forward Fold
This classic yoga pose is fantastic for stretching out your spine. It also does wonders for flexibility in your hamstrings, hips, and calves. There are plenty of variations to this pose, so if you aren’t at the level where you can achieve the perfect forward fold yet, don’t worry! As pictured below, this pose is accomplished by folding your upper body toward your lower body; although this pose is ideally done with straight legs, it’s important to work your way up to that point and keep your knees bent at first.
2. Reclined Hand to Toe
This reclining pose is amazing if you want to improve flexibility in your hamstrings, thighs, hips, and calves. To do this pose, lie on the ground with your legs extended. Lift one leg so that it’s straight toward the ceiling, but instead of letting your other leg lie slack on the floor, be sure to keep it strong. With the leg that’s in the air, you can either try to grab your foot or loop something around your foot, like a resistance band. Work on pulling that foot toward you, while still keeping your leg straight. Make sure to do this on the other side, too!
The cobra pose is instantly recognizable. It’s great for stretching out your back, shoulders, and abdomen, and ultimately increasing flexibility in those areas. This pose is done by lying face-down on the ground, stretching back your legs and placing the tops of your feet on the floor, and straightening your arms to lift your chest off the floor. Then, you curl your heart forward and squeeze your shoulders away from your ears, which will push your ribs forward, too. The cobra is amazing, but if you have any sort of back issues, please use caution before trying this yoga pose!
4. Eye of the Needle
This relaxed pose is great for stretching out your hips, thighs, and back. This is often one of the poses that yoga instructors will take you through at the end of class, after all of your hard work. For this pose, lie down on the ground but bend your knees, keeping your feet on the ground. Cross one ankle over your other knee and lift your other foot off the ground, still keeping your knee bent. Bring your legs closer, but try to keep your hips firm on the ground. Make sure to try this on the other side, too.
5. Downward Dog
When people think of yoga poses, downward dog is the pose that comes to mind most often. As easy as this pose may look, it’s actually rather challenging to master. It improves flexibility throughout the entire body: the hamstrings, calves, shoulders, feet, and hands. If it’s too difficult to straighten your legs in this pose, try bending your knees as much as you need. It’s also helpful to bend one knee at a time, back and forth, in a peddling motion. This is a pose that you’ll be practicing again and again if you participate in any yoga classes, but it’s also great to practice at home.
The butterfly pose is one of the easiest poses to do if you have limited space. Most of the poses on this list can be done in small areas, but this pose can be done virtually anywhere. For this pose, you’ll need to be seated. Drop your knees to either side of you and pull your heels together so that they touch. From there, pull your heels toward you as much as you can, all while maintaining a mindful posture. No matter how close you can pull your heels toward you, this pose is great for stretching the inner and outer thighs. If you’re ever sitting for a long time and start feeling stiff, this is a great pose to try!
7. Crescent Lunge
The crescent lunge is a variation of the standard high lunge. It stretched out your abdomen, back, hamstrings, thighs, and calves. To accomplish this pose, get into a high lunge, with your front knee directly over your foot and your back knee straight and strong. Lift your arms over your head and meet your hands in a prayer position. Bring your shoulders away from your ears, so they tighten across your back. This might make you lean back ever so slightly, which will give you an amazing full-body stretch.
This standing yoga pose is amazing for increasing flexibility in the spine, shoulders, wrists, hamstrings, and hips. To get into this pose, stand with one foot about three or four feet in front of the other. Lean your torso in the same direction as your front foot, and press your weight evenly through both feet. Bring your hands behind your back and lean forward, so you’re doing a variation of a forward fold against your front leg. If this isn’t an option, you can also bring your arms to the ground for more stability.
9. Half Moon
The half moon pose is a really fun pose to try, but it can take a good amount of practice. It requires a lot of balance and stability, but once you’re able to practice this pose, the benefits will be amazing! It stretches your spine, hamstrings, calves, shoulders, and even your throat. This pose involves standing on just one leg. You’ll make a right angle with your other leg, holding it parallel to the ground. With the arm closest to the ground, you can either hold onto a block or let your hand hover above the ground. Your other arm will reach toward the ceiling. Although this pose can be a bit challenging, it’s surprisingly easy to get the hang of, especially if you start off by using a block.
The garland pose involves a very low squat. This simple pose is great for improving flexibility in your ankles, back, and inner thighs. To get into this squat, you’ll need to stand with your feet hip-width apart, and point your toes slightly outward. Come into a squat, but keep sending your body lower and lower, until you’re as close to the ground as possible (without sitting down, of course). Bring your hands together at your chest in a prayer position. Even if you can’t get that low, each time you do this pose, you’ll get better and better at it!