Yoga stretching not only helps improve flexibility in the muscle tissues themselves, but can increase flexibility in the fascia, or membrane sheath that covers the muscles. Yoga can also make tendons and ligaments stronger and more supple. Here are 3 simple yoga stretching exercises that can relieve tension throughout your whole body.
1) Downward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog is a popular yoga pose that increases strength in the upper arms and shoulders. However, this pose also helps to greatly improve flexibility in the back and legs. Here's how to perform it properly.
- Begin on your hands and knees. Press your palms into the floor. Separate your fingers and press them into the floor as well.
- Lift your hips and straighten your legs. Keep your toes pointed straight forward and press your heels into the floor.
- If the muscles of your legs are too tight and don't allow you to press your heels into the floor, then feel free to bend your legs until you can straighten your spine and press your heels into the floor.
- Keep your spine straight in this pose. Your head should remain relaxed between your arms and your hips should remain lifted toward the ceiling. You'll know when you've achieved a straight spine because your abdomen will fall forward into your chest cavity, as if your stomach were sucked in.
- Using your arms properly in this pose is crucial to supporting the spinal and leg stretch. Turn your inner elbows outward to allow the shoulder blades to relax down the back. Press into your palms and fingers. Keep your fingers spread and your index finger pressed strongly into the floor.
- Breathe deeply and slowly in this position. If you begin to lose control of your breath, come out of the pose and rest.
2) Standing Forward Bend
The Standing Forward Bend is another great stretch that acts on the muscles of your back and legs.
- Stand upright, in Mountain Pose, with your knees directly above your ankles, your hips directly above your knees, your shoulders directly above your hips and your head erect. Allow your arms to hang down on either side. Distribute your weight evenly through the soles of your feet.
- Inhale, lift your arms above your head, and look up. Pull your abdomen in toward your spine.
- Exhale and bend forward. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your neck long. Allow your head and arms to dangle.
- If you can do this pose with straight legs, great. If not, feel free to bend the legs and rest your torso on your thighs.
- Hold this pose for five to ten breaths. Come up slowly.
3) Triangle Pose
This pose stretches the muscles of the inner thighs and back.
- Assume a wide-legged stance, with your toes pointed forward.
- Turn your left foot so that the heel points toward the arch of your right foot.
- On an inhale, lift your arms parallel to the floor.
- On an exhale, bend forward over the left leg. Drop the left hand down the leg, all the way to the floor if possible. Turn your head to look up at the other hand. Keep your spine straight.
- Hold the pose for five to ten breaths, then repeat on the other side.