Everyone should add a simple yoga routine for flexibility if they want to keep their muscles strong and lean. People say that a person’s age is determined by the flexibility of his/her spine and yoga is the perfect way to stay young.
We get so used to not moving and bending that our muscles dehydrate and stiffen with age. Elastic fibers get bound up with collagenous connective tissue getting tight. Stretching every day slows down the process of dehydration by stimulating the production of tissue lubricants.
“Our lives are restricted and sedentary,” explains Dr. Thomas Green, a chiropractor in Lincoln, Nebraska, “so our bodies get lazy muscles atrophy, and our joints settle into a limited range.”
- Flexibility: Yoga is a slow and soft practice that helps you regain flexibility. People with arthritis or who know they are very stiff can start off with a gentle style of yoga that focuses on deep stretching. While practicing, you will see that your range of motion starts to become freer. Yoga trains your muscles to be more limber. For anyone who feels that their body is too tight and that the yoga mat is too difficult to work out on, try out chair yoga. This style of yoga has a great range of exercises that offer even more stretching benefits than the floor. Once you have loosened up enough, you can move onto the mat and more advanced poses. To get the deepest stretch, you need to be mindful of your breathing. Meditation and breathing help us move more into the pose stretching the muscles slowly. The more we stretch out our muscles, the more we build them up to be flexible. You need to hold your breaths for a few counts followed by powerful releases.
- Strength: There are so many muscles that we don’t use every day. On top of that, muscle mass in adults starts to reduce at around 40 or 50 years of age. Not having muscle mass means that you feel weaker. People need to strengthen the muscle mass by using them. In yoga, you are training your muscles to support your weight in hundreds of poses. And there are yoga poses for each muscle – even those you didn’t know you had. Yoga poses challenges to these muscles and strengthens them.
- Balance: Yoga includes a variety of poses that require you to work on your balance. There is the classic image of balancing on one foot and resting the other on your thigh. Head balances are also impressive and performed by more advanced practitioners. No matter what your level in yoga, there is a need to hold your balance and breath through every pose. You need to work on particular muscles that help you maintain stability and balance while in a pose. Muscle groups in the hips, outer hips, and glutes are at work as well as your inner thighs, shin, calf, and core muscles. They have to work in sync with each other and keep you in control. Two important muscles are the medius and minimus muscles of the glutes. Found on the hip, they create exterior support around our pelvis and legs. As we grow older, these muscles gradually weaken. The result is sway in our walk because our hips are moving too much from side to side. The National Institute of Health states that falls is one of the biggest causes of accidents reported.
“1.6 million older adults go to the emergency room each year because of a fall. These falls can result in bruises, fractures, or even broken bones. One of the best things you can do to prevent falls is to practice balance and build muscle strength, and yoga specializes in both.”
The National Institute of Health
The best yoga style for flexibility is a hard one to choose. Every yoga pose stretches and strengthens necessary muscles keeping you feeling young and strong. While you practice yoga, you connect more with your body. You listen to where you feel the tension and work through the stretch. Adding a full-body yoga routine and sequence for strength and flexibility will make you feel energized and free.
If you are interested in yoga for immediate or extreme flexibility, work towards the more advanced poses that will have your muscles twisting, bedding, and balancing in all directions.
Types Of Yoga For Flexibility
- Yin Yoga. One of the best types of yoga for flexibility is Yin Yoga. Yin Yoga feels like you are doing a slow, deep stretching rather than getting ready for practice. It is both relaxing and effective stretching at the same time. Instead of powering through a pose, yogis breathe deep and release more tension helping them to bend more forward, back, left, or right. These slow poses also allow you to gently bend and twist your body in crazy shapes and figures without hurting yourself. You will be surprised how many poses you can get into when you do Yin Yoga. It includes some of the best yoga stretches for flexibility and if you have never done yoga before, easy yoga poses for flexibility are the most gentle, to begin with, and can be a stepping stone to more active practices.
- Vinyasa yoga is another great yoga style to try. It includes 6 different poses that you hold and release for the same amount of counts. Also known as power yoga, it is challenging and is better for yogis with athletic backgrounds to increase their flexibility. Based on the sequence of poses in Ashtanga yoga, power yoga builds upper-body strength as well as flexibility and balance. You flow from one pose to another.
Here are a few easy yoga poses for flexibility that you can start with.
Standing Forward Bend Pose
In Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend Pose), ‘Ut’, means 'intensity' and the ‘Tan’, means 'stretch, extend or lengthen out'. In this yoga pose, the spine is given a deliberate and intense stretch. This yoga pose consists of standing with feet together, bending the upper body at the hips and letting the head hang downwards and taking control of the body by placing the palms on the floor besides the feet. This intense forward stretch of the upper body including the spine brings an indirect opening of the hamstring muscles. Standing Forward Bend Pose is considered a base pose as standing forward bend pose variations can be derived from this pose.Standing Forward Bend Pose helps boost energy in the body and hence can be included in flow yoga sequences. Step-by-Step Instructions
Warrior Pose I
As per Hindu Mythology, ‘ Virabhadra’, was the name of a ‘Warrior’, created by Lord Shiva. Hence this pose comes from the creation of the fiercest warrior by Lord Shiva and so the name goes as ‘Virabhadrasana’ or ‘Warrior’ Pose. In Sanskrit ‘Vira’ means ‘Hero’ ‘Warrior’ ‘Vigorous’ and ‘Courageous’, and ‘Bhadra’ means ‘good’ ‘auspicious’. Considered to be a powerful posture replicating the power of a warrior, this pose is the first variation amongst the many under warrior poses. The importance of practicing this pose is emphasised clearly in all schools of yoga as it forms a part of the standing poses which includes balance, stability and stamina. To balance the body with feet more than hip distance apart and raising the arms above your head while gazing at them, requires one to connect the body with the breath. Practicing the alignment of the feet and the knees, along with the torso marks as a great pose to add beauty to one’s body. Warrior Pose I is considered a base pose as warrior pose i variations can be derived from this pose.Warrior Pose I helps boost energy in the body and hence can be included in flow yoga sequences. Step-by-Step Instructions
Cat Cow Pose
This name, Marjary and Bitila comes from Sanskrit script, where ‘marjari’ meaning ‘cat’ and ‘bitila’ meaning ‘cow’ is defined. The pose Marjaryasana- Bitilasana is a combination of two poses practiced together to gently warm up the spine and the abdomen for more challenging postures or is sometimes also practiced as a simple restorative pose. Coming on all fours, and gently moving the back in a rhythmic way, and taking the position like that of a cat or a cow, releases the tensions around the spine and shoulders and tightens the abdomen to make a stronger core. Cat Cow Pose is considered a base pose as cat cow pose variations can be derived from this pose.Cat Cow Pose helps boost energy in the body and hence can be included in flow yoga sequences.Cat Cow Pose is considered a warm-up yoga pose to prepare the body for more intense yoga poses / yoga flows. Step-by-Step Instructions
In Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), as the name suggests, the body resembles a serpent with its hood raised. This yoga pose is considered as a very powerful backward bending yoga pose in Hatha Yoga. Cobra pose comes under the category of 'lying down on the stomach' yoga poses. As this asana is considered powerful like the Cobra snake, a lot of care should be taken while going into the pose and coming out of the pose. Any jerks of the back while going into the pose can cause discomfort to the back and can also cause injury. While releasing too, the body must drop down slowly and not with a jerk. Cobra Pose is considered a base pose as cobra pose variations can be derived from this pose.Cobra Pose helps boost energy in the body and hence can be included in flow yoga sequences. Step-by-Step Instructions
Yoga is a perfect morning routine for flexibility. While everyone else is getting those last seconds of sleep, you can already get your body prepared by stretching it after a long night of rest. Here are a few easy-going stretches that also get you energized for the day ahead.
Crescent Low Lunge Pose
Anjaneyasana (Crescent Low Lunge Pose) gets its name after Lord Hanuman's mother named Anjani. Another name for Hanuman in the Hindu culture is ‘Anjaneya’. Lord Hanuman is referred to as the mighty God with boundless power and strength, and this pose brings in the same kind of power and strength when practiced the right way. This standing hip opener and a heart opener pose is sometimes also known as the Crescent Moon Pose because of how the body looks. This pose is performed by stretching one leg behind and placing the other one in front with knee bent and foot on the floor. The arms are raised up with palms joined in Namaste and expanding the chest and stretching the neck. This yoga pose is also called Low Lunge as the shin and part of the thighs for the stretched leg are rested on the floor. This is the first and simple version of the Crescent High Lunge Pose. Low Lunge Pose is considered a base pose as low lunge pose variations can be derived from this pose.Low Lunge Pose helps boost energy in the body and hence can be included in flow yoga sequences. Step-by-Step Instructions
Malasana, or Garland Pose (as the arms hang from the neck like a garland) is a very basic pose and should come naturally to all. But with modern comfort and habits, the simple bending of knee and sitting on our feet has become a great challenge to most of us. Malasana brings back the most simple way of using the lower back and the knees to squat on the floor which otherwise should come naturally.
Malasana works wonders on the digestive organs and this is done by the simple method of sending apana (one of the five vital Vayus as per Yoga) downwards and thus bringing a strong Muladhara (one of the Chakras in the human body as per Yoga Sutras), which is the root of the spine. Garland Pose is considered a base pose as garland pose variations can be derived from this pose.Garland Pose helps boost energy in the body and hence can be included in flow yoga sequences. Step-by-Step Instructions
Can you get more flexible by doing yoga?
Yes, you can. All yoga poses focus on stretching and strengthening your muscles keeping them as loose and limber as possible as our bodies age. It is highly recommended to do yoga and stretches every day. We do not move so much anymore in our daily lives, so any chance to get those muscles and ligaments moving is time well-spent.
If you are new to yoga, you can start with a practice that is slow and gentle – like Yin yoga. Once you get more confident, you can move into more fitness-related yoga which pushes your body further and increases flexibility too.
How long does it take for yoga to improve flexibility?
Everyone is different. Some people are born with flexibility and others are training into it. No matter how flexible or stiff you are, improvement is possible as long as you concentrate every day and practice.
The deeper you challenge the stretch the more flexible you get too. So even though some people would do yoga for a month, if their poses are gentle, they will not get as flexible as a person who did deeper stretches for a month. But keep in mind that you do not want to go overboard. Never push yourself past your limits. Yoga should always be comfortable and positively effective.
Why is yoga good for flexibility?
It works on breathing, movement, and stretching muscles and ligaments all over the body. With yoga, you can activate areas of the body that never get used and are hard to access. Practicing yoga every day improves your strength, flexibility and focuses on your breathing. Yoga is a great way to stay stretched and meditate at the same time.