In our quest for fitness, the importance of flexibility is often overlooked. However, being flexible is an attribute that not only helps prevent injury, improves posture and enhances athletic performance but also sets us up to remain more active as we age. With that in mind, here are 6 yoga poses that are essential in maintaining a flexible and supple body.
Reverse Warrior 2: Stretches side body and strengthens the back, hips and thighs.
From Warrior 2, externally rotate your forearm and reach it up and over your head. Engage your core by pulling your belly button into your spine and feel the stretch of the side-body. Your back arm may lightly lean on your back thigh or calf. Recommit to the bend of your front leg as it’s easy to back off the work there. Stay for 5 breaths.
Skandasana: Helps build core strength and stretches hips and hamstrings.
Stand wide-legged and bend one knee into a half squat. Keep the other leg straight and flex your foot. Place your hands on the floor for balance or try other variations—like hands in prayer pose. Ideally your bent leg’s foot should be flat on the floor. Place your hands on the floor if you’re not able to lower your hips all the way down. Stay for 5-10 breaths.
Forward Fold: Stretches calves, hamstrings, lower back and neck. Quieting effect on mind.
Stand up with your feet about 1 foot apart, toes pointing forward and knees straight. Lean forward into the toes and bend from the hips, placing your hands towards the floor. Stay for 5-10 breaths, then come up with a strong inhalation.
Trikonasana: Improves balance and hip joint flexibility. Stretches hamstrings and back muscles.
Stand in Warrior 2, straighten both legs, pull your kneecap up and externally rotate your front thigh. Lean forward over your front leg. When your hips start to move, place your hand down on your block, thigh, calf or mat. Stay for 5-10 breaths, then come up with a strong inhalation.
Lizard Lunge: Improves flexibility in your hips and hamstrings.
From a high lunge with your feet hip width apart, place your hands inside your front, bent leg. Squeeze your inner thighs together, pull your navel in and separate your shoulder blades. Option: Go down to your forearms. Stay for 5-10 breaths.
Threaded Shoulder Stretch: Stretches shoulders. chest, upper back and neck.
From all-fours, thread one arm under your torso and over to the other side as you place your shoulder and head down on the floor. Stay for 5 breaths.
–Jacquelyn Umof, Stretching Expert, Certified in Yoga, Yoga Therapeutics, Pilates, and Barre