Yoga and Meditation

Yoga Poses that Improve Flexibility

 Maintaining flexibility is important for good physical health. As we age or lead a sedentary lifestyle, experience stress, or have poor posture and movement habits, our body loses flexibility over time. Practicing yoga regularly can help improve flexibility and mobility in muscles and joints.

Increasing flexibility brings numerous benefits, such as a wider range of motion, reduced muscle tension, and a decreased risk of injuries.

1. Uttanasana: Standing Forward Bend

Instructions

Step 1

Start by standing with your hands on your hips. With an exhale, bend your upper body forward from your hip joints. As your torso lowers, draw in your abdominal muscles and let your chest and pubis area open. Prioritize the lengthening of your upper body as you get closer to the standing forward bend.

Step 2

Keep your knees straight as you bend from your hip points. Bring your palms to the mat, touching it with your fingertips. Keep your arms in front of you or beside your feet and cross your elbows if you feel you cannot bring your arms forward. Deepen the pose by applying pressure onto your heels and lifting your backside towards the ceiling.

Step 3

Each time you take a breath, lengthen your torso and bring your upper body closer to the final position of the forward bend. When you slowly progress onto the forward bent, it is easier for your body to adapt and avoid discomfort, mainly when you synchronize your movements with your breathing cycle. Allow your neck to relax and your head to hang neutrally.

Step 4

Hold the pose for anywhere between 30 seconds and 1 minute. The standing forward pose is commonly used as a resting position between challenging standing poses, but it can also be practiced as a standalone asana.

Step 5

Release the pose by bringing your hands near your hip points and slowly pulling your torso up while keeping your spine straight. Press on your tailbone to help your upper body keep its form and come back up smoothly with an exhale.

2. Upavistha Konasana: Seated Wide-Legged Straddle

Instructions

Step 1

Sit with your legs stretched out. Widen your legs to about 90 degrees and rotate them inward so that your feet and knees are straight up. Manually widen your pelvic floor by moving the flesh of your buttocks to the side and back. Spread your toes. Bring your hands behind you and press the fingers down firmly. Tilt your pelvis forward to create a natural curve in the lower back.

Step 2

Place your fingers on either side of your right leg and twist your torso to the right. Exhale and lower your thighs and sit bones. Inhale, lengthen through your head from your lower abdomen, and move your abdomen, lungs, and heart to the right. Pull your hands back towards your body. Pull your shoulders back and bring your shoulder blades firmly to your back. Pull back with your fingers against the resistance of the floor. Keep the inseam of your thighs firmly facing down.

Step 3

While exhaling, step your right leg forward and hold your right leg with both hands. Press the ball of your big toe into your hands. Extend out through your legs from your lower abdomen and extend your toes. Lower your tailbone and pull the sides of your waist back.

Step 4

Inhale and lift from your lower abdomen through your head. Exhale and stretch your leg forward, leading with your heart. If you keep your spine extended, you can bring your forehead towards your upper shin.

Actively spread your toes and press your foot into your hands. Use the resistance of your foot and pull back with your hands to pull the muscles up to the arms and up to the shoulders. Raise your elbows and the front of your shoulders to help you draw your shoulder blades more deeply into your back. Press your thigh bones down and powerfully extend through your legs.

Stay in this pose for 30 to 60 seconds. Release and repeat the process on the other side.

3. Sucirandhrasana: Eye of the Needle

Instructions

Step 1

Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent, placing the feet on the floor close to the lower back. Lift your left foot, keeping it bent from the knee. Now, cross the left ankle and place it on the right thigh. Closer to the right knee (On the thighs). At this point, make sure that your back is neutral and rested on the floor. The head is not lifted but rests on the mat. 

Step 2

Lift your right foot off the floor, thread your left arm through the legs, and hold both arms from the right knee. Keep the gaze up in the sky. Keeping the breath under control, press the right knee deeper into the chest with exhalation and feel the lower hip tighten and stretch. If you cannot hold the space under the right knee, you can hold the right thigh.

Step 3

The pressure at the hamstring and the upper thigh creates a deeper stretch of the hip and lower back. Ensure the body remains in this pose without stressing the neck muscles or the shoulder blades. Remain in the pose for three to four breaths and stay focused with the stretch at the hips. 

Step 4

Now, gently release your arms first, place your right foot on the floor, and then release your left foot by placing it on the floor. Rest in this position for 2-3 minutes. Repeat on the other side by placing the right ankle on the left thigh, threading the right arm between the legs, and slowly pressing the left leg towards the chest. Remain in the pose for three to four breaths and gently release. Place the leg down, release the arms and finally relax.

4. Baddha Konasana: Cobbler’s Pose

Instructions

Step 1

Sit firmly with your sit bones on the mat. Now bend your knees and join the soles of your feet. Now hold your feet or ankles with the palms. Move your heels to the groin as much as you can. 

Step 2

Exhale and let your knees slowly towards the ground. This has to be sustainable, and the movement should be gravitational and not forced. The arms should be relaxed, Be aware not to crunch your shoulders. But roll back the shoulders away from the ears. Consciously elongate your torso, thus lengthening the spine. Keep the crown of the head steady by tucking the chin to the neck. Imagine your legs are like the wings of a butterfly. Start flapping it by bringing the knees up and down. This creates blood circulation and warmth for the groin and inner thigh muscles to stretch.

Step 3

Now slowly stop the movement and stay in the pose. Feel the thighs and knees going lower to the mat. Keep breathing, and with every exhale, try to lower the knee a little further. Stay in the pose as per your capacity. Once you achieve the pose, slowly Inhale, and replace your hold on your feet by placing your hands at the inner arches. Place your thumb on the inner arch and four fingers around the foot. Proceed to open the soles of your feet like a book. This will help you open the hips further as your knees drop closer to the floor. It also helps protect the knee joints from taking too much strain. 

Step 4

When you’re ready to release the position, slowly let go of your feet. One by one, straighten the legs out. Here, you can choose to do certain movements of the ankles and toes and straighten your legs.

5. Eka Pada Rajakapotasana: Pigeon Pose

Instructions

Step 1

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Your arms should be on the side of your body.Adopt the standing forward bend. To do this, hinge at your hips and bring your torso toward your legs.

Step 2

Keep your spine straight as you fold forward. Inhale and lunge with your right leg forward, keeping your left leg straight behind you. Lower your right knee toward the ground. Try to keep your left heel lifted.

Step 3

Exhale and put the exterior side of your right shin on the mat. Your right heel should be close to your left hip. Place your left knee on the mat. Your left foot should face the ceiling.

Step 4

Place your palms on the mat in front of you. If it’s challenging to keep your palms on the mat, you can place them on your shins. Then, elongate your spine and lift your chest. Look forward to keeping your gaze soft. Hold the position for a minute or 30 seconds, whichever is comfortable. Breathe deeply.

Step 5

To come out of the pigeon pose, exhale and bring your right leg back. Place both feet on the ground and go into the standing forward bend. Inhale as you bring your torso up.

6. Gomukhasana: Cow Face Pose

Instruction

Step 1

Find a seat. Place your bent right knee on top of your bent left knee so that your knees are stacked directly in the center of your body, and draw your heels close to your body. Ensure both sit bones are glued to the floor to keep your hips level. Lift your chest and sit up straight and tall so your spine is flat.

Step 2

Reach your left arm to the sky and bend the left elbow, so the palm rests on your upper back. Bend your right elbow and move the right hand behind your back with your palm facing out.

Step 3

Hook your fingers together behind your back, so your hands are between your shoulder blades. Energetically lift your left elbow towards the sky and your right elbow towards the ground beneath you as you take five deep breaths. Carefully unwind, and repeat on the other side.

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