Featured Image Caption: Best Stretching Yoga Poses
Did you know that yoga has a history of over 5,000 years? Maybe you have a perception of yoga as a new-age trend, but it’s actually an ancient practice invented by Vedic age priests in northern India.
Since its inception, it’s only become more refined and targeted. The old school traditions have combined with a new understanding of body mechanics, making way for new poses for the modern lifestyle. Regularly performing these yoga stretches will increase your flexibility and reduce pain from poor posture and stationary jobs.
Yoga also has a host of mental benefits in addition to the physical and has been likened to a form of physical meditation. For best results, you should perform a short sequence of stretches every day.
We’ve compiled a list of the best stretching yoga poses below, so read on to learn more! Yoga is all about finding what works for your body, so give them a try and find the ones that are helpful for you!
Bridge Pose – Bandha Sarvangasana
Our modern lifestyle is far more sedentary than ever before. Even if you take time to move throughout the day, you’re probably still sitting most of the time. This can cause anterior pelvic tilt and other hip alignment issues that can cause back and hip pain.
One of the best stretches to counteract this effect is the bridge pose. Begin by lying on your back, and place your feet beneath your backside, and lift your hips. This creates a stretch through your hip flexors and allows your spine to straighten out a bit.
For an added stretch, you can clasp your fingers together on the ground under your hips to stretch your pecs and upper back.
Cat and Cow – Marjaryasana and Bitilasana
This is a pair of poses linked together in one fluid movement. Using them can stretch your spine and promote spinal movement and extension.
Start on your hands and knees, with a flat back. To perform the cow pose, drop your stomach, sinking your spine. Your head will come up.
To perform the cat pose, arch your back as high as you can and drop your head, similar to how a cat arches its back when threatened. Slowly alternate between the cat and the cow, getting some mobility and extension in your spine. Try to feel the movement in every vertebra from neck to tailbone.
Pigeon Pose – Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
This pose is perfect for those with tight hips, which is most of us! Begin in a downward dog, and bring your left leg into your chest.
Set it down so your shin is almost parallel to the front edge of your mat. So, your right foot should be behind your left hand and your knee should be behind your right hand.
Keep your hips square, and bring them down to the mat or a block if that’s more comfortable. You can stabilize yourself with your fingertips as you lengthen your spine. For an additional quad stretch, reach behind you with your left hand and grab your left foot.
Repeat the pose on both sides.
This pose is incredibly helpful, but it can also be difficult to get the hang of. When you’re starting, it can be best to take some private yoga lessons. A yoga instructor can make sure you’re doing the poses correctly, and provide you with the best yoga stretches for your body.
Happy Baby Pose – Ananda Balasana
This pose might look a little silly, but it’s one of the best yoga stretches for lower back and hip issues. Lie down on your back, and grab your feet.
You can keep your arms outside your knees and grab the outer edge of your feet. If you prefer, you can keep your arms inside your knees and grab your big toes. To massage your back, you can rock back and forth and side to side.
Tree Pose – Vrikshasana
If you’re looking to develop your balance, tree pose is a great way to start. It’s one of the easiest yoga balances, in addition to being one of the best yoga hip stretches. If you’re still developing your balance, keep a chair on hand for extra stability.
Begin standing, and shift your weight to your left leg. Lift your right leg, and open it to the side. Place your right foot along your inner left thigh, so your toes are by your knee.
Your hip flexibility might not let you put your foot on your thigh. You can keep it on your shin or even your ankle if that feels better. Bring your hands to your heart or overhead.
Repeat on both sides.
Warrior 1 – Viribhadrasana 1
Many yogis recommend warrior 1 to add to your collection of morning yoga stretches. It wakes up the whole body and energizes you to take on your day.
Begin standing, and step your right foot forward. Angle your left toes out to the left to improve your balance. You should be in a standing lunge.
Then raise your arms to the sky and lengthen your spine. Repeat on both sides.
Warrior 2 – Viribhadrasana 2
You can continue your warrior flow from warrior 1 by lowering your arms. Keep your torso in line with your hips, and face your front foot.
Extend your arms in a T shape, one pointing towards the front of your mat and one pointing towards the back.
This pose can strengthen and stretch your legs, increase your spatial awareness, and relieve backaches.
Cobra Pose – Bhujangasana
This simple backbend helps stretch your abs, extend your spine, and free up your hips. For that reason, it’s classic among yoga back stretches.
Begin lying on your stomach, and place your hands under your shoulders. Press up through your hands, your hips, and your feet. Your legs and hips should all remain on the floor, while your back arches up (like a cobra).
You can also raise your hips off the floor, so only the tops of your feet and your hands are on the mat. This makes a deeper stretch in your lower back and can strengthen your glutes and legs.
Rotated Chair Pose – Parivrtta Urkatasana
This beginning twist can help improve alignment and teach you how to rotate safely. Begin standing, and lower to a traditional chair pose. The chair pose is achieved by placing your hands on your thighs and sitting back as if on an imaginary chair.
Press your palms together at your heart, and rotate to the left. Your right elbow will hook around your left knee. Keep your gaze upwards.
Repeat on both sides.
Camel Pose – Ustrasana
This pose is essential for lower back alignment and neck flexibility. There are lots of variations, but this is the most basic.
Stand on your shins, with your legs approximately hip-width apart. Lift your heart, and roll your shoulders back and begin to arch over backward. Curl your toes under and drop your hands to your heels.
You might not be able to grab your heels right away, and that’s fine! Take your time and ease into it. Over time your flexibility will increase, but don’t force it.
Head-to-Knee Forward Bend – Janu Sirsasana
This pose is great if you’re on your feet all day, or spend a lot of time walking and biking. It will release your calves and hamstrings and will also open your hips.
Begin seated, with both feet forward. Bring your left leg in, so your foot is positioned along your right leg. Reach forward and grab your right foot, and bend forward.
At its most challenging, this pose involves touching your head to your knee. However, very few people can accomplish this! Begin where you’re at.
If you need a strap to loop around your extended foot, start there. As you progress, you’ll get deeper and deeper into the fold.
Legs-on-the-Wall Pose – Viparita Karani
The name of this pose speaks for itself! Begin lying down, with your hips against the wall. Extend your legs up the wall, open your chest, and extend your arms out to your sides.
This is a great cooldown pose, allowing your legs and feet to relax and drain. It also has some benefits for inducing sleep, so if you struggle with sleeplessness you might notice a difference with regular practice.
If you want to make it a bit more active, you can point and flex your toes to stretch your calf and shin muscles. In addition, you can circle your toes, allowing your ankles to release.
Find the Best Yoga Stretches for Your Body
Yoga, unlike other exercises, is about finding the best positions for your specific body. What is easy for you is difficult for others and vice versa.
These yoga stretches are a great place to start for beginners, and you’re sure to notice a difference with regular practice. For more tailored sessions and guided practices, consider a private instructor. You’ll improve more quickly and enjoy your yoga much more!
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