Unless you’re one of those people, chances are you weren’t born with the gift of natural flexibility. Luckily we can help.
If you’re about as flexible as a fence post is, that doesn’t mean you can’t go to yoga class!
Yoga is how you become flexible; it certainly isn’t a prerequisite. These poses and sequences are effective ways to get extra bendy!
Incorporate these into your regular practice and you’ll feel like Gumby in no time at all.
1. 6 Great Stretches For Tight Hip Flexors
Tight hip flexors are caused by a lot of things. The most common causes are things like sitting at a desk all day, running, and weight lifting (especially squats).
Your hip flexors seem like they’re useless until you need them during yoga class, they’re actually pretty involved!
- Stabilize your lower body
- Move your legs from side to side and front to back
- Pulling knees up
- Flexing the hip joint
Tight hip flexors put a damper on overall flexibility, and if you’re experiencing low back pain in weight lifting or other exercises, stretching these muscles helps a lot.
Start incorporating deep hip flexor yoga poses into your daily routine, and you’ll quickly see yourself making great strides in your whole-body flexibility.
2. Use Props for Tight Hamstrings
Your yoga blocks are an incredible way to improve your flexibility. Trying to force your body to be flexible is how injuries occur, especially in your hamstrings and shoulders.
Use one block or two; it doesn’t matter.
No matter how high you’re stacking your blocks, if you feel sensation (not pain) in your body, you’re making strides in flexibility!
The first place new yogis recognize their general lack of flexibility is in forward folds. Your toes seem miles away, so stop worrying about grabbing your toes and focus on bringing your head close to your knees.
Place one or two (or three) blocks on your legs where you can comfortably rest your head without any pain in your back or hamstrings.
Remember there’s a vital difference between pain and sensation. Pain is never okay!
3. Open Your Shoulders, Reduce Neck Pain
If you have a lot of anxiety or stress in your life, you might have chronic neck and shoulder pain.
That saying “He carries the weight of the world on his shoulders” rings very true when you’re under an extreme amount of stress.
Neck tension leads to headaches, sleeplessness, and back pain.
Tight shoulders also stem from “desk schlump”, that constant head shift and shoulder hunching you get when you’re working at a computer all day. Battle both of these causes with this chest and shoulder opening sequence.
We spend all day hunched forward, so when we counter that shape with chest openers (shoulders back, chest puffed), we learn to sit upright, improve our posture, and minimize neck tension.
4. Loosen Hamstrings and Hips
If you’re a runner, your hamstrings are probably so tight you could play a country song on them, and let’s not even get started on how creaky your hips are.
You need relatively tight hamstrings to have speed when you run, but that doesn’t mean doing some hamstring opening isn’t going to be beneficial.
The majority of the time, tight hamstrings won’t cause any issues unless you’re trying to straighten your leg in compass pose.
However, tight hamstrings are more prone to tearing, especially if you force them outside of their capabilities.
Tight hammies also cause the hips and pelvis to rotate back, causing back pain. Not many people are aware that back pain, poor posture, and even sacroiliac joint pain caused by their hamstrings pulling their pelvis out of its normal position (3).
When you’re doing the following poses, ensure that you’re able to discern the difference between pain and just sensation. If your hamstrings are very tight, you’ll need to be very careful not to overextend this muscle and snap it.
Torn hamstrings are notorious for extensive recoveries, so honor your body and don’t do more than your body can do.
5. Lengthen and Strengthen the Spine
Poor posture leads to chronic neck pain. When you’re slumped over, your spine isn’t in alignment with your spine. As a technology-centered society, almost everyone is afflicted by “forward head and shoulder posture” (4).
When you fall into this position, your head falls forward of your shoulders. This position places stress on your neck’s lower vertebrae, leading to degenerative disc disease.
Shoulder pain is a common complaint, too, because with the head being too far forward, the shoulders and upper back begin to round unnaturally.
Unfortunately, this position is so ingrained in us that our bodies often shift right back into it when we peek at our smartphones or sit down at our desk for the day.
Backbends counteract this forward pulling, reversing our body’s new and not-so-natural position. Now, before you dive into backbends, remember there are two types of people: those with really flexible spines and those with the spine of an oak tree.
Backbends lengthen your spine, encourage better posture, and reduce back pain. If you aren’t naturally flexible in your back, backbends are going to feel intense.
Modify where needed, and never bend from your lower back. Always expand through your chest.
Don’t ever believe you have to be flexible to start doing yoga. A regular practice is the best way to become flexible, and before you know it, you’ll be whipping out poses that impress everyone you know.
Make sure you aren’t rushing the process, and your body will quickly follow your efforts!