Are you able to run a full marathon but find reaching for your toes a Herculean task? Can you lift weights with ease but struggle with holding a simple back end? Clearly, flexibility is a fitness element that many people tend to neglect.
If you are looking for ways to improve flexibility, yoga is possibly the most effective exercise to achieve this.
First Off: Don't Hurt Yourself
The key to improving your flexibility is to take it slow and steady. Yoga for beginners entail participants to hold the stretches and poses for just 10 to 20 seconds in order to let the muscles lengthen little by little. This also allows the ligaments, joints and tendons to get accustomed to such range of motions.
As you progress, you can prolong the poses and at the same time, stretch your body further.
The following yoga poses (asanas) are recommended to improve your flexibility even if you're not an avid yogi.
1. Cat and Cow Pose
This can be your warm up exercise. Move into a tabletop position with your wrists below your shoulders and your knees below your hips. The palms of your hands and tops of your feet are pressed evenly against the mat.
With an inhale, look up and arch your back evenly, lengthening from the pubic bone to the sternum. When you exhale, round the back completely, by curling your tailbone in, as well as your chin to your chest, which stretches the back of the neck.
Sounds like it has nothing to do with flexibility, right? Think again, most positions that require flexibility DO involve your neck and back. Make sure it's prepared for your bends and stretches.
2. Intense Side Stretch
Let's work on your spine next! Stand straight with your legs apart. Close your arms behind your back. Slowly lean forward to touch your left knee with your head. Return to an upright position. Do the same with the other side.
Alternatively you can try to place your hands at the back of your head and try to touch your left knee with your left elbow and vice verca. If this is too hard for you, you can simply hold your arms out straight and touch aim for your left and right foot.
3. Plough Pose (Halasana)
Since it stretches your lower back and neck, this is a great yoga pose to relief tensions caused by sitting in front of your computer all day.
Lie on your back with your arms fully stretched on the left and right side of your upper body. Then slowly lift your legs to bring your feet above and past your head. Gently lift your back and move your feet further away from your head.
Support your upper back with your arms with the hands close to the shoulder blades.
4. Hands to Feet (Uttanasana)
This is a classic and probably the first thing that comes to your mind when you want to show off your flexibility to someone. It really is a good way to train, stretch and strengthen your legs and spine.
Stand straight. Slowly raise your arms above your head as you inhale. Bend forward and reach for your toes. If you can, you can bend more until your abdomen touches your legs. Take deep breaths while holding the pose.
Flexibility is essential to maximize your physical capabilities and to avoid injuries, not only when you do sports but also in every day life. All sorts of athletes and fitness enthusiasts that are searching for ways to improve flexibility have turned to yoga.
Even if you're not a yoga fan, you should really consider doing this basic yoga session 3 to 4 times a week for 6 to 8 weeks and you will see a significant improvement of your ability stretch and bend.