The latest statistics show that improving flexibility is the most popular reason for starting yoga, and research does prove that it’s one of the biggest benefits of regular practice.
However there are a number of asanas that can help to make you more flexible than the rest. Here are our top 10 yoga poses for improving flexibility:
1. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Standing Forward Bend is top of the list of yoga poses for flexibility.
Dean of the Kripalu School of Yoga, Cristie Newhart describes how alignment is key to the pose and how:
“The support of the abdominal muscles below the navel allow for greater flexibility in the lumbar spine”.
Practicing the Standing Forward Fold is a little bit like a test, helping you realize how flexible you currently are!
The more times you do it, the more flexible you’ll become, eventually being able to straighten your legs fully.
However it is essential that you learn how to practice the Uttansana correctly, to avoid putting too much pressure on your lower back.
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2. Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)
If you want stretches for flexibility then it’s time to embrace your inner warrior. Warrior I is a great asana when you’re concentrating on your trunk.
The action of the pose builds both strength and a better range of motion within your core muscles.
Warrior I is also ideal for developing flexibility in the hips. It’s thought that the active mobility of the pose is what improves your range of movement over time.
See the video below for how to perform the Warrior I pose correctly:
3. Cat-Cow Pose (Marjaryasana-Bitilasana)
Cat-Cow Pose is another important stretch for gaining flexibility in your spine.
Lifelong yoga teacher Guru Rattana, Ph.D describes how:
“Yogis say that a person’s age is determined by the flexibility of his/her spine”.
She advises that you should initially practice the pose for between one and three minutes, gradually increasing your speed, allowing your spine to become looser and more flexible.
4. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
When it comes to simple yoga poses for flexibility, Cobra Pose is great as it has so many advantages for your overall wellbeing.
You get a deep stretch in your back which really helps to strengthen and loosen up your spinal column.
Some yogis even claim it can give you a ‘perky bottom’!
5. Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
If you’re looking for yoga poses for back flexibility then Bow Pose is a wonderful asana to begin practicing.
Gwen Lawrence who runs the Power Yoga for Sports training program, demonstrates how Bow Pose is perfect for athletes as part of their stretching routine.
She states how:
“Bow pose increases the flexibility of the back as a whole…helps to open the lungs, vertebrae and hip flexors, which are often very tight in athletes. This gives athletes greater spinal flexibility and rotation with less strain”.
6. King Dancer Pose (Natarajasana)
King Dancer Pose can be tricky to master, and perhaps not a great asana to start with if you’re looking for beginners’ yoga poses.
However once you’ve mastered the posture you can enjoy valuable flexibility benefits.
Natarajasana is a deep stretch for your whole body, and helps to build suppleness not only in your spine but also in your shoulders and hamstrings.
Posture improvements can be seen from practicing the pose regularly, so it’s perfect if you find yourself stuck behind a desk all day.
Watch below to see yogi Lauren Eckstrom guide you through the King Dancer Pose:
7. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
International yoga teacher Adriene Mishler reitterates how the Bridge Pose is ideal if you’re experimenting with deeper back bend asanas to develop greater movement within your back.
She highlights the pose as a rejuvenating backbend for non-flexible people, but also good for experienced yogis who can enjoy going deeper in to the pose.
However if you do find Bridge Pose too challenging, why not consider starting with the supported version.
8. Butterfly Pose (Baddha Konasana)
Butterfly Pose creates flexibility in the groin and hip region, and helps your body enjoy a deep stretch.
In his book The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga, passionate yogi Bernie Clark highlights the power of the Butterfly Pose.
Clark describes how the pose can be effective in treating urinary problems and even claims that it can make childbirth easier.
9. Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
It’s suggested that you practice the Seated Forward Bend after every workout, particularly if you’re suffering from tight hamstrings.
The pose is thought to create a release within the hamstrings, whilst also working on the back and neck.
In Beryl Bender Birch’s book Power Yoga: The Total Strength and Flexibility Workout she describes how the Seated Forward Bend is extremely helpful in stretching the buttocks and lower back to build greater strength and flexibility.
10. Reclining Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)
Practicing the Reclining Twist has wonderful restorative advantages and is an ideal asana for realigning balance within the body.
It’s also another valuable pose if you’re looking for the best yoga for flexibility.
Travis Eliot in his book A Journey in to Yin Yoga recommends holding the pose for between two and four minutes to feel the full benefits.
Eliot explains that the action of the pose provides a release across the lower back that leads to easier movement within the spine.