Whether you want to lose weight, gain weight, become stronger or become more flexible, yoga can help you achieve any fitness goal you might have. The only condition is that you practice the right asanas (yoga poses). There are hundreds of asanas to choose from depending upon your goals, and for those of you who wish to make your bodies more flexible, here is a tailored list of asanas that will help you get there. But first, we must delve a little into the science of body flexibility.
Science of Flexibility
According to physiology, flexibility is the ability of a joint or a series of joints to move through their complete range of motion. This range of motion is influenced by the mobility of the muscles, ligaments, tendons, joint capsules, and skin. All of us are born with flexible joints but most of us have lost this ability as a consequence of modern sedentary lifestyle and ageing.
Joint movement becomes stiffer and less flexible as you grow older because the amount of lubricating fluid inside your joints decrease, the cartilage becomes thinner and ligaments shorten. Stretching exercises slow this natural process. And this is a good thing because stretching is an important component of yoga practice. Yoga poses stretch your muscles and increase your range of motion.
Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t give yoga a try because they think they need to be flexible to do yoga. This is not true, flexibility is not a prerequisite for yoga. On the contrary, over time yoga can help you become more flexible.
Here are a set of asanas that will surely make you more flexible if you practice them daily.
1. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
The original Sanskrit name of this pose “Uttanasana” is composed of three words “Ut” meaning “intense”, “tan” meaning “stretch”, and “asana” meaning “pose”. It is a calming posture that will activate your inner legs and lengthen your hamstrings.
Steps to do Uttanasana:
Stand up straight and bend forward, rotating your hip joints.
Keep your knees straight and place your palms on the floor or hold the back of your ankles.
Remain in this pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
2. Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
Trikonasana or triangle pose is a standing pose. It stretches and lengthens the thighs, knees, ankles, hips, groins, hamstrings, calves, shoulders, chest, and spine. Apart from making you more flexible, Triangle Pose stimulates the abdominal organs, helps relieve stress, and also improves digestion.
Steps to do Trikonasana:
Start in mountain pose. Step your feet wide apart as you exhale.
Rotate your right foot to a 90-degree angle, and inhale as you raise your arms to the sides until they are parallel with the floor.
As you exhale bring your right hand to the floor, on the inside or outside of the right foot, reach the left arm toward the ceiling, and gaze at your left thumb.
Remain in this position for 30 seconds to 1 minute and then repeat on the left side.
3. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Downward-facing Dog Pose is an inversion asana, often practiced as a part of the Surya Namaskar (Salute to the Sun) which is a sequence of twelve gracefully linked asanas. It releases your hamstrings, calves, hips, lower and mid-back, and across your shoulder blades and chest.
Steps to perform Downward-facing Dog Pose:
Begin in a plank pose with your shoulders on top of your wrists and your heels on the balls of your feet.
Lift your hips up and back without moving your hands or your feet.
Remain in this pose for 1-3 minutes.
4. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana is an inverted back-bending asana in hatha yoga. It opens the chest, heart, and shoulders. It stretches the spine, the back of the neck, the thighs, and the hip flexors (front hip joints). Additionally, Bridge Pose also stimulates the abdominal organs and thyroid glands, which improves digestion and helps regulate metabolism.
5. Cow Face Pose (Gomukhasana)
Gomukhasana or Cow Face Pose is a seated asana in Hatha yoga and sometimes used for meditation. It stretches the hips, ankles, shoulders, arms, chest, and almost every part of your body.
To learn these asanas from an expert teacher and practice yoga with the aim to improve your flexibility, don't forget to take a look at our schedule for live yoga classes and join in!