by: Yuri Elkaim

Yoga for Inflexible People - 11 Poses That Will Make You More Limber

If bending over to tie your shoes makes you feel like you’ve accomplished a major feat of flexibility, you probably think that you’re not cut out for yoga.

But here’s a little secret. Doing yoga doesn’t mean you have to twist yourself into elaborate and uncomfortable poses.

First, not every yoga pose is complicated. In fact, many common stretches we use today – like forward bends – actually have their roots in yoga.

And second, there truly isn’t a better way to get flexible than with yoga.

The unique combination of dynamic movement and deep stretching creates the perfect environment for effectively lengthening the muscles and realigning the body – which can equal better posture and fewer aches and pains.

Yoga for Inflexible People

The following 11 poses are especially effective for increasing flexibility, as they target multiple areas of the body and also pesky trouble areas, such as the hips.

Read on to discover the bendable body you never thought you’d have.

But First, Get Warm

Before you experiment with these poses, it’s important that you get your muscles nice and warm. This not only helps prevent tears and pulls, but also helps you get a deeper stretch since your body is less tight and cold.

Try going through my 5-minute yoga routine, or alternatively perform a 5- to 10-minute dynamic warm up (see what I mean by “dynamic” here) before your stretching session.

Improve Your Upper Body Flexibility

Have you been catching yourself slouching a lot lately? Or perhaps your chest has been feeling tight when you try to stand up straight?

You’re not alone. It’s easy to develop a tight chest and upper body, either due to stress or slouching.

Unfortunately, life tends to pull us into bad posture (and stress). From working on the computer to doing the dishes, gardening to picking up children, we can often find ourselves slouching forward for the better part of our days.

This can lead to chronic tightness in your entire upper body, which then transforms into neck and back pain. Not to mention, slouching doesn’t exactly make us look our best.

These yoga poses target your upper body region to relive tightness and realign your shoulders and neck to their proper position. They’re also great if you do a lot of upper body work with weights, as these areas can get excessively tight.

11 Yoga Poses To Limber You Up - WP

1. Cow Face Pose

Cow face pose opens the entire shoulder region, and also lengthens the triceps.

Cow Face Pose

How to do it:

  • Begin sitting tall on the floor. Lift your right arm and reach it behind you (as if you were patting yourself on the back).
  • Now reach your left hand around your lower back. Try to clasp your fingertips together.
  • If you can’t quite touch your fingertips, try grabbing hold of your shirt or using a strap.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

2. Cobra Pose

Cobra is an excellent shoulder, chest, and torso opener that feels amazing after a day spent on the computer.

Cobra Pose

How to do it:

  • Begin lying facedown on the floor, legs together and arms at your sides.
  • Place your palms on either side of your chest, elbows in, and lift your head and chest off the floor, squeezing your glutes to protect your lower back.
  • Stretch your head and chest toward the ceiling.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

3. Eagle Pose

Eagle pose is another full upper-body stretch that also challenges your balance.

Eagle Pose

How to do it:

  • Begin standing tall, arms extended in front of you.
  • Place your right arm beneath your left and bend your elbows to wrap your right arm around your left like a snake. Touch your palms together.
  • Hold the pose here, or deepen it by gently lifting your elbows, keeping your palms together.

4. Camel Pose

Camel pose is not only one heck of a chest opener, but also stretches the full length of your torso, hips, and even shoulders.

Camel Pose

Via Yoga Journal

How to do it:

  • Begin on your knees (hip-width apart) on the floor.
  • Rest your palms on your low back or upper buttocks for support, and begin to lean backward.
  • You can stay here, making sure to keep your chest lifting toward the ceiling, or continue to go further, reaching out your fingertips to rest on the soles of your feet. Make sure to contract your glutes to protect your low back.
  • Hold this pose for 30 seconds, always being aware to keep your chest and neck lifted to avoid compressing your lower back.

Camel pose may be too difficult for some at first. If this is the case, try a simple chest opener by clasping your hands behind you and gently pulling your shoulders back.

Create Lower Back Flexibility

Chances are if you don’t suffer from low back pain yourself, you know someone who does.

This isn’t really surprising when you consider the inordinate amount of time we as a society spend sitting each day (with bad posture no less).

Unfortunately, too much sitting puts unnatural pressure on the lower back and spine, while also weakening the glute muscles and tightening the hip flexors.

These stretches will help ease tightness and compression surrounding the spine, hopefully providing you some relief from the pressures of sitting.

Recommended Reading: 

5. Downward-Facing Dog Pose

Downward-facing dog is one of the best stretches for inflexible people, as it’s relatively easy to do and feels great. Not to mention the fact it not only stretches the back, hamstrings and shoulders, but can also build strength in the upper body.

Downward Dog

How to do it:

  • Begin on the floor with your knees directly under your hips and your hands slightly forward from your shoulders.
  • Spread your fingertips, turn your toes forward, and raise your knees off the floor.
  • Lengthen your tailbone to the ceiling, keeping your head between your arms (neck relaxed).
  • Feel the stretch through your back and hamstrings as you gently work to touch your heels to the ground.
  • Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

6. Cat-Cow Pose

Cat-cow pose will feel like heaven to your spine and neck, where it lengthens and reduces stiffness.

Cat-Cow Pose

How to do it:

  • Begin on all fours, knees directly beneath your hips and hands directly beneath your shoulders.
  • Inhale, arching your spine and looking up toward the ceiling. Feel your chest open.
  • Now exhale, rounding your spine up toward the ceiling, letting your head lower toward the floor.
  • Repeat for a full minute.

Increase Your Lower Body and Hip Flexibility

The hips, hip flexors, glutes, and hamstrings tend to be problem areas for many people. In fact, you’ve probably found yourself asking, “Why are my hips so inflexible?” during a yoga class, or while doing squats and lunges.

The answer lies not only in your hips, but also your glutes and hamstrings – and how you’re using them.

Unfortunately, if you’re sitting all day, your hip flexors will become excessively tight and “pull” your upper body forward, worsening any stiffness you have (and making your posture worse).

Couple this with a weakening of your glutes and stiff quadriceps, and the picture is anything but pretty.

Luckily, these poses specifically help counteract tight hips, glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps.

7. Pigeon Pose

When a pose is nicknamed the King of Hip Openers, you know you’re about to be in the presence of a powerful stretch.

Pigeon Pose Sequence

How to do it:

  • Begin in a tabletop position on your mat.
  • Now bring your right leg forward and slowly sink down so that the outer edge is resting on the floor.
  • Extend your left leg behind you, keeping your hips angling toward the floor. You may not be able to sink your hips all the way to the floor at this point, but don’t worry! As long as you feel a deep stretch in your hip, you’re doing it right.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, then step your right foot back under you and repeat on the left leg.

8. Eye of the Needle Pose

If you’re getting into yoga for inflexible hips, you’ve come to one of the best poses.

Eye of the Needle Pose

How to do it:

  • To begin, lie on the floor on your back. Lift your legs and cross one ankle over the opposite thigh. You’ll probably already be able to feel the stretch through your hip.
  • You may want to stay with just the ankle crossed, but if you’re looking for a deeper stretch, go ahead and lift the bottom leg off the ground slightly, wrapping your arms around your hamstring for support.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs.

9. Cobbler Pose

Cobbler pose is excellent for opening the hips and inner thighs, which will help improve your mobility during exercise such as reverse and lateral lunges.

Cobbler's Pose

How to do it:

  • Begin seated on the floor, knees bent out to your sides and soles of your feet touching.
  • Reach forward and pull your feet in toward your body until you feel a stretch in your hips and inner thighs.
  • Once you’re comfortable here, try leaning forward to deepen the stretch.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

10. Half Hero Forward Fold

Half hero forward bend is a two-in-one powerhouse stretch for the hamstrings and quadriceps.

Half Hero Forward Fold

How to do it:

  • Begin sitting on the ground with your legs extended in front of you.
  • Bend your right knee and tuck your foot just under your right glute, keeping your left leg extended. Be sure to keep your hips facing forward.
  • You can stay here or begin to fold forward over our left leg, keeping your spine straight.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, then switch extended legs.

11. Reverse Triangle Pose

Reverse triangle is another pose that more than just the hamstrings; it also opens the shoulders and chest, and is a great calf stretch.

Reverse Triangle Pose

How to do it:

  • Begin with your feet wider than hip-width apart on your mat, arm extended out from your sides.
  • Rotate your left foot inward slightly while rotating your right foot out at a 90-degree angle. Keep both heels aligned.
  • Now, extend with your torso out over your right leg, hinging from your hip.
  • Rotate your torso to your left, walking your right hand to your shin or ankle.
  • You can stay here or rotate further until you’re looking behind you. Extend your right arm toward the sky, opening your chest, while keeping your left hand on your right foot.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, making sure to keep your heels on the floor.

How Often Should You Stretch?

Ideally, perform these poses 2 to 3 times a week to make an impact on your flexibility. You can either integrate them into your regular yoga practice or do them standalone – just remember to warm up beforehand.

Now, without further ado, let’s get bendy!

Go From Stiff to Supple With My Secret Tips

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Yuri Elkaim

Yuri Elkaim

Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.