Yoga Exercises for Flexibility: Improve Your Range of Motion

In a nutshell

  1. Having good flexibility is very important for staying healthy as you get older. Practicing yoga can be beneficial because it includes various poses that can help enhance your ability to move.
  2. In this article, we’ll explore some of the best yoga exercises to improve flexibility and share tips on modifying these asanas if they’re hard to perform.
  3. Flexibility takes time and consistency, so practicing regularly and being patient are important.


Healthy aging and longevity hinge on maintaining flexibility, and practicing yoga exercises for flexibility provides a variety of poses that can enhance your range of motion. Yoga is a mind-body practice that has been around for thousands of years and offers a range of benefits, including improved flexibility, strength, balance, and relaxation.1 Gothe NP, McAuley E. Yoga Is as Good as Stretching-Strengthening Exercises in Improving Functional Fitness Outcomes: Results From a Randomized Controlled Trial. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2016 Mar;71(3):406-11. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glv127. Epub 2015 Aug 22. PMID: 26297940; PMCID: PMC5864160. PubMed Source 2 Polsgrove MJ, Eggleston BM, Lockyer RJ. Impact of 10-weeks of yoga practice on flexibility and balance of college athletes. Int J Yoga. 2016 Jan-Jun;9(1):27-34. doi: 10.4103/0973-6131.171710. PMID: 26865768; PMCID: PMC4728955. PubMed Source

Studies indicate that even once-a-week yoga sessions of 90 mins for six weeks can improve flexibility in the back and leg muscles.3 Amin DJ, Goodman M. The effects of selected asanas in Iyengar yoga on flexibility: pilot study. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2014 Jul;18(3):399-404. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2013.11.008. Epub 2013 Nov 8. PMID: 25042310. PubMed Source Moreover, the research indicates that doing yoga can improve multiple physical functions and quality of life outcomes at any age.4 Sivaramakrishnan D, Fitzsimons C, Kelly P, Ludwig K, Mutrie N, Saunders DH, Baker G. The effects of yoga compared to active and inactive controls on physical function and health related quality of life in older adults- systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2019 Apr 5;16(1):33. doi: 10.1186/s12966-019-0789-2. PMID: 30953508; PMCID: PMC6451238. PubMed Source

In this article, we’ll explore some of the best yoga exercises (or asanas) for flexibility.

1. Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)



The downward-facing dog is a classic yoga pose that targets the hamstrings, calves, and spine. To perform this pose, start on your hands and knees with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Then, exhale and lift your knees off the floor while keeping them slightly bent. Straighten your arms and legs as much as possible, and press your heels toward the floor. You should feel a stretch in your hamstrings and calves and a lengthening in your spine.

It’s important to keep your shoulders away from your ears and to engage your core muscles to protect your lower back. You can modify this pose by bending your knees slightly or placing a block under your hands if you’re unable to reach the floor.

2. Forward Fold (Uttanasana)



The forward fold is another great yoga pose for stretching the entire back of the body, including the hamstrings, calves, and spine. To perform this pose, stand with your feet hip-distance apart and fold forward from your hips, keeping your knees slightly bent. Place your hands on the floor or blocks if you cannot reach the floor. Relax your head and neck, and let gravity do the work of stretching your hamstrings and calves. You should feel a release in your lower back and a lengthening in your spine.

It’s important to avoid rounding your spine or forcing yourself into the pose. You can modify this pose by bending your knees or using a strap to help you reach the floor.

3. Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)



The triangle pose is a yoga pose that targets the hamstrings, hips, and spine. To perform this pose, stand with your feet wide apart and turn your left foot out 90 degrees while keeping your right foot in slightly. Reach your left arm toward the floor and place your hand on a block or on your shin. Reach your right arm up toward the ceiling and look up toward your right hand. You should feel a stretch in your hamstrings and hips, and a lengthening in your spine.

It’s important to keep your chest open and your shoulders stacked over each other. You can modify this pose by placing your hand on your thigh instead of the floor or by using a block under your hand.

4. Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)



The seated forward fold is a yoga pose that targets the entire back of the body, including the hamstrings, calves, and spine. To perform this pose, sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Inhale and lengthen your spine, then exhale and fold forward from your hips. Reach for your feet or shins, and relax your head and neck. You should feel a release in your lower back and a stretch in your hamstrings and calves.

It’s important to avoid rounding your spine or forcing yourself into the pose. You can modify this pose by bending your knees slightly or by using a strap to help you reach your feet.

5. Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)



The pigeon pose is a yoga pose that targets the hips, thighs, and groin. To perform this pose, start on your hands and knees with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Bring your right knee forward and place it behind your right wrist. Slide your left leg back behind you, keeping your toes curled under. Square your hips to the front of the mat and lower your body onto your forearms or all the way down to the ground. You should feel a stretch in your right hip and groin.

It’s important to keep your hips squared to the front of the mat and to avoid collapsing onto your right hip. You can modify this pose by using a block or blanket under your right hip if it doesn’t reach the ground.

6. Butterfly Pose (Baddha Konasana)


Butterfly pose is a yoga pose that targets the inner thighs and groin. To perform this pose, sit on the floor with the soles of your feet together and your knees bent out to the sides. Hold onto your ankles or feet and bring your heels in toward your body. Press your elbows down onto your thighs to deepen the stretch. You should feel a stretch in your inner thighs and groin.

It’s important to keep your spine straight and to avoid rounding your back. If sitting comfortably is difficult, you can modify this pose by placing a block or blanket under your hips.

7. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)



Cobra pose is a yoga pose that targets the chest, shoulders, and spine. To perform this pose, lie on your stomach with your hands on the floor underneath your shoulders. Inhale and press your hands into the floor to lift your chest and shoulders off the ground. Keep your elbows close to your body and your shoulders away from your ears. You should feel a stretch in your chest and shoulders, and a lengthening in your spine.

It’s important to avoid straining your neck or lower back. You can modify this pose by keeping your elbows bent or by only lifting your chest slightly off the ground.

8. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)



A bridge pose is a yoga pose that targets the chest, neck, spine, and hips. To perform this pose, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Inhale and press your feet into the floor to lift your hips up toward the ceiling. Interlace your hands under your back and press your shoulders down onto the floor. You should feel a stretch in your chest and neck and a lengthening in your spine and hips.

It’s important to engage your core muscles to protect your lower back and to avoid over-arching your spine. You can modify this pose by placing a block under your hips or by keeping your hands by your sides.


Recap and final thoughts

Remember to always treat your body with kindness and respect when practicing yoga or any other physical activity. Avoid pushing yourself into poses that don’t feel right, and listen to your body’s signals. Developing flexibility is a gradual process that requires consistency and patience, so don’t be too hard on yourself. To stay motivated, try tracking your progress with some simple at-home tests that you can perform regularly. Celebrate even small improvements and enjoy the journey toward greater flexibility!

References

  • 1
    Gothe NP, McAuley E. Yoga Is as Good as Stretching-Strengthening Exercises in Improving Functional Fitness Outcomes: Results From a Randomized Controlled Trial. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2016 Mar;71(3):406-11. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glv127. Epub 2015 Aug 22. PMID: 26297940; PMCID: PMC5864160. PubMed Source
  • 2
    Polsgrove MJ, Eggleston BM, Lockyer RJ. Impact of 10-weeks of yoga practice on flexibility and balance of college athletes. Int J Yoga. 2016 Jan-Jun;9(1):27-34. doi: 10.4103/0973-6131.171710. PMID: 26865768; PMCID: PMC4728955. PubMed Source
  • 3
    Amin DJ, Goodman M. The effects of selected asanas in Iyengar yoga on flexibility: pilot study. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2014 Jul;18(3):399-404. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2013.11.008. Epub 2013 Nov 8. PMID: 25042310. PubMed Source
  • 4
    Sivaramakrishnan D, Fitzsimons C, Kelly P, Ludwig K, Mutrie N, Saunders DH, Baker G. The effects of yoga compared to active and inactive controls on physical function and health related quality of life in older adults- systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2019 Apr 5;16(1):33. doi: 10.1186/s12966-019-0789-2. PMID: 30953508; PMCID: PMC6451238. PubMed Source
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