If you are looking to add flexibility to your list of health and wellness goals, here are 5 great yoga stretches you can do regularly to improve posture, lengthen shortened muscles, and loosen up tight muscles on the body.
1. The Cobra- The Cobra is an excellent stretch for the abdominals and the anterior hip region. Lay flat on your stomach, place your two hands flat on the floor, and push only your upper body up while keeping your legs flat on the floor and looking straight ahead or up towards the ceiling.
2. The Bridge- This is only for advanced people, and should be gradually worked into as it usually takes practice and progress for beginners. Modified versions are also available. Laying flat on your back with your feet flat on the floor like you would do a crunch, place both hands over your head flat on the floor. Maintaining strong balance and form, elevate the stomach towards the ceiling while forcing your arms and legs to simultaneously take on the weight. Allow the head to relax almost like you are upside down.
3. Extended Angle With a Twist- Similar to the Triangle pose, place one hand on the same side thigh. Lean your weight on the opposite side leg. Then, elevate your opposite arm over your head and lean slightly back towards the same side arm and leg, allowing for a stretch of the side of your body (Lattisimus Dorsi, obliques, and abdominals) where your arm is raised toward the sky.
4. Downward Dog- A great stretch for the calves, begin like you were going to do a pushup, but walk your hands back towards your feet, forcing the pelvic region to elevate towards the ceiling, and placing all your weight down on the feet. Do not flatten the feet, but naturally, the weight should shift to the front of the feet, allowing for the dorsiflexion to occur that stretches the calf. Keep the arms strong and straight and hold.
5. The Warrior- Gently lean your weight to one side of the body with the toes of that foot facing the side wall. Form a circular motion with the arms and land in a fully extended arms position that forms a straight line across the body with both hands flat and parallel to the ground. Extend both hands as far as you can in opposite directions while forcing the weight of the body into the direction of the foot facing the side wall. Repeat to the other side after holding.
These 5 moves will help you with balance, function, posture, coordination, awareness, and elongation of the body and muscles. Always hold a stretch for at least 20 seconds to allow for the benefits and effectiveness to take place. Be sure to do yoga consistently and always challenge your previous range of motion from the yoga workout before. Namaste.