- 1. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
- 2. Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)
- 3. Cat-Cow Pose (Marjaryasana-Bitilasana)
- 4. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
- 5. Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
- 6. King Dancer Pose (Natarajasana)
- 7. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
- 8. Butterfly Pose (Baddha Konasana)
- 9. Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
- 10. Reclining Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)
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 standing 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.
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 strength and a better range of motion within your core muscles.
A project conducted in Detroit in 2016, compared yoga with stretching-strengthening exercises as a way to build flexibility.
A series of poses were practiced over an eight week period, including Warrior I.
Results showed yoga was just as effective in improving overall functional fitness and flexibility.
Warrior I is also ideal for developing movement in your 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.
Many refer to it as a beginner’s asana because it lubricates the spine and abdomen, preparing you for more challenging poses!
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.
Cat-Cow was also used in a 2016 study looking at the impact of yoga on women with premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Those who followed the program had fewer physical PMS symptoms and were at lower risk of menstrual pain.
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.
If you’re a sloucher, Cobra can also be a good way to improve your posture.
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 add to your sequence.
Yoga-loving runners take note!
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.
Spine flexibility was the focus of research published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science.
Hatha yoga was adopted by women over 50, including Bow Pose. Regular yoga sessions were found to improve the flexibility of the spine.
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)
Many fitness experts recommend Bridge Pose becoming part of your yoga routine for flexibility, especially if you’re trying to find poses to help with back pain.
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?
If you’re looking for ways to build muscle, there is evidence to show that Bridge Pose in particular can be a good one to adopt.
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.
A word of caution to those with back pain:
Butterfly Pose could make your discomfort worse as you’re putting a lot of stress on your joints.
Rolling up towels or blankets and putting them under each thigh can offer a little more support.
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.
Renowned yoga teacher Beryl Bender Birch, in her book Power Yoga: The Total Strength and Flexibility Workout, describes how the Seated Forward Bend is extremely helpful in stretching the buttocks and lower back to build greater strength and flexibility.
Paschimottanasana is also thought to be a great mood booster, ideal if you’re looking for asanas to ease symptoms of depression.
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.
Influential yoga guru and author 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.
Once you’ve mastered the ten asanas on this list, you might need even more inspiration!
Why not take a look at our article on the best yoga poses for sleep?