9 Yoga Poses to Make You Flexible and Limber

Sport & Activity

Yoga flexibility happens over time with repetitive and consistent movement. Here are 9 poses to add to your practice to feel more limber.

Last updated: 22 December 2021
7 min read
The Best Yoga Poses for Flexibility

There are clear benefits of practising yoga regularly, including better sleep, reduced anxiety and increased flexibility. And flexibility has tremendous health advantages too, including a larger range of motion, healthier joints and a stronger back. Research shows yoga can also:

But yoga flexibility happens over time by building balance and stamina and doing consistent, repetitive movements. Holding a balancing yoga pose promotes concentration, builds stability and supports muscles through repetitive movements, creating strength over time.

Best Yoga Poses for Flexibility

Certain yoga poses help improve flexibility while training proper alignment so you don't injure yourself. This is done by targeting specific muscles—usually hips, hamstrings and shoulders. These are the areas that tend to be affected by everyday activities like sitting at a desk all day.

As you work to improve your flexibility, don't rush or push your limits too quickly. That can lead to injury. Instead, practise every single day and hold the pose just a few seconds longer each time. Here are the most common poses to start with.

  1. 1.Reclined Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose (Supta Padangusthasana)

    As you work to improve your yoga flexibility, using blocks and straps to help you ease into poses can help make things easier. During Reclined Hand-to-Big-Toe pose, a strap relieves pressure on your hamstrings.

    1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
    2. Raise your right knee and loop a yoga strap around the bottom of your right foot.
    3. Extend the left leg flat along the floor.
    4. Lift your right leg slowly to the sky and keep your leg as straight as possible while flexing your foot. You should feel this in your hamstrings, hips and calves.
    5. Don't worry about how high you lift your leg, the point is to try and keep it as straight as possible while you hold on to the sides of the strap with your hands.
    6. After a few breaths, slowly lower your right leg and switch the strap to the left leg and repeat.
  2. 2.Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

    This is a pose that's great for beginners as it's simple but powerful. Cobra pose is meant to stretch your back and increase strength while loosening up your spinal column.

    1. Lie on your stomach and make sure that the tops of your feet are flat on the floor.
    2. With your elbows bent, place your hands flat on the floor directly underneath your shoulders.
    3. As you inhale, press your torso up slowly off the floor with your neck in a neutral position—your gaze should stay on the floor, rather than looking up.
    4. Exhale as you release and move back down to put your chest to the floor.
    5. Repeat several times.

    Tip: if you're a beginner or have back pain, you may want to try Baby Cobra first. In Baby Cobra, your elbows are bent and held next to your ribs, as you slowly push up halfway, rather than straightening your arms completely.

  3. 3.Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)

    For more of an intense back stretch, adding Bow pose to your yoga routine can help stretch the front side of your body while making your back stronger.

    1. Begin on your stomach with your hands next to your sides with palms facing up.
    2. Bend your knees and bring your heels towards your butt.
    3. Reach back with your hands and grab onto your ankles.
    4. If you're unable to reach back with your hands, use a yoga strap, sheet or thin towel.
    5. On an inhale, slowly lift your thighs off the floor and pull your heels away from your glutes. This will naturally lift your chest and pull your shoulders back.
  4. 4.Eagle Pose (Garudasana)

    Not only does Eagle pose help build endurance, balance and strength, it's an effective stretch for your shoulders and upper back. Because this pose takes practice, don't feel discouraged if you can't nail it the first time around.

    1. Start standing with your feet flat on the ground and your arms by your side.
    2. Optional: lift your left foot and cross it over your right shin, then squat down while keeping your spine straight.
    3. Cross your left arm underneath your right and bend your elbows so your hands move towards your face.
    4. Your forearms should be perpendicular to the floor.
    5. At this point, you should feel a stretch in your shoulder blades.
    6. Make sure that your palms are pressing into each other and your fingers are pointing to the ceiling.
    7. Squeeze your arms and press your palms together.
    8. Stay in this position for 15 to 30 seconds, then switch legs and arms.

    Tip: you may only want to cross your arms initially, and cross your legs and practise the balance portion another time.

  5. 5.Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)

    This is probably one of the most common yoga poses for flexibility, because it's a relatively simple way to stretch the backs of your legs, lower and upper back, and neck.

    1. Stand with your feet flat on the floor and hands on your hips.
    2. Exhale and bend forwards from the hips, not the waist. Keep your knees straight (not locked out), but bend them slightly as necessary.
    3. Place your palms or fingertips to the floor or put your hands behind your neck to give your torso more weight for a deeper stretch.
    4. Let your head hang so your gaze is between your thighs.
    5. Stay in the pose for 30 to 60 seconds.

    Tip: when you fold forwards, make sure that your hips are over your ankles and slightly bend your knees (or bend them a lot if you feel too much of a strain on your hamstrings). While you're in this pose, use your hands to grab opposite elbows and let your torso hang as you sway side to side.

  6. 6.Seated Wide-Legged Fold (Upavistha Konasana)

    This pose is a great way to stretch the inside of your thighs and hips. Instead of rounding your back as you bend over, make sure that your spine is straight. Try to keep your legs straight but bend them as needed.

    1. Start in a sitting pose on the ground with your legs spread in a wide "V" in front of you.
    2. Lift your arms over your head and keep your back straight as you bend forwards.
    3. Breathe out.
    4. Reach your hands towards your feet. Grab your shins or ankles if you can't quite reach your feet.
    5. You can also use a strap over each foot to pull your torso closer to your feet.
    6. Breathe in and reach for your feet or toes as you breathe out.
  7. 7.Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

    Downward Facing Dog, also known as Down Dog, is a popular pose in Vinyasa yoga to reset your breath and give you a quick break. It's also great for stretching the backs of your legs, calves and shoulders.

    1. Start in a tabletop position on all fours—hands under shoulders and knees under hips.
    2. Lift your knees from the floor so your legs are straight and your feet are flat on the floor.
    3. Your arms should be straight too, with palms flat on the floor.
    4. Your biceps should be next to your ears and you should feel the stretch in your shoulder blades.
    5. Pedal out your feet slowly so your heels alternate touching the floor.
    6. Breathe in and out and stay inverted for at least five breaths.
  8. 8.Pyramid Pose (Parsvottanasana)

    This pose provides a deep stretch for your hamstrings and hips. You can use blocks to ease you into this pose if you'd like.

    1. From Downward Facing Dog (see above), step your right foot so it's between your hands and you're in a runner's lunge. Both feet should face the front of the mat.
    2. Lower your left heel and rotate it out about 45 degrees.
    3. Straighten both legs as much as you can, and with a flat back, move your forehead towards your right shin as you inhale. (Use blocks to rest your hands on, if needed.)
    4. Exhale and move your torso closer to your right knee.
    5. Repeat for five breaths before switching legs.
  9. 9.Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

    In a yoga class, Pigeon pose is typically performed near the end of class, as it's a relaxing pose that opens your hips.

    1. Start in Downward Facing Dog (see above) and lift your right leg up towards the ceiling.
    2. Bring that leg forwards towards your hands and move your right knee to the floor, placing it on the outside of your right hand, and your right foot in front of your left hand. Your shin should be perpendicular to your body.
    3. Lower your left knee to the mat, making sure that your left foot is pointing straight back.
    4. Square your hips to the front of your yoga mat.
    5. Slowly move your torso down and fold over your right leg.
    6. Reach your forehead towards the floor.
    7. Breathe for five breaths, then switch legs.

    Tip: if your legs and glutes don't quite touch the floor, use a block or padding underneath your hips to provide cushion and support.

Benefits of Flexibility

Before or after any physical activity, it's important to stretch to help prevent injuries. And practising yoga to increase your flexibility strengthens your muscles and joints. Paired with slow and steady breathing techniques, stretching can help release tension, both mentally and physically.

Plus, it feels good! And as your body releases its tension, so does your mind. This increases your sense of well-being and may help reduce your overall stress.

How Long It Takes to Become More Flexible

The frequency and intensity of your yoga session will determine how quickly you improve your flexibility. Positive results will come with regular practice and performing a variety of poses that target different parts of your body.

In order to reap the full benefits of these yoga poses, incorporate mindful breathing and relaxation, which are effective ways to improve your overall mental health and well-being.

The Best Yoga Poses for Flexibility

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Originally published: 22 December 2021

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