Yoga is a great exercise to stretch out and strengthen your body, empty your mind and build a spiritual connection. But I’ll admit that the reason I started doing it in the first place was probably because of an impressive inversion I saw on Instagram that looked beyond cool. And the idea of being able to the splits at a party, like nearly every other girl on the planet, I imagine. And there’s nothing wrong with that!
One of the main reasons why people do yoga is because they want to be more flexible. So below are a couple of flexibility tips to help you get into the splits, back bends and to open your heart. These tips are universal and can be used on any part of your body, so enjoy!
So think of your body before you warm up… cold and stiff. Not the best for flexibility, let’s face it! Before you begin any deep stretching, you’ll want to warm up your entire body to make yourself a little bit bendier and to prevent injury.
One popular method of warming up is by doing sun salutations, which are a sequence of poses that will pick up your heartbeat a little bit and might cause a slight sweat. You can repeat this sequence as much as you want, depending on the day, of how warm you want to be, or how much you enjoy them! Watch a tutorial on how to do a Sun Salutation by Kino McGreggor here.
If you’re not a fan of sun salutations, you could do some cardio to warm up. Running, jumping, high knees, dancing – any of these will raise your heartbeat and make your body more subtle. Be creative and see what works for you.
Bring your focus to your breath:
Yoga is connecting your poses with your breath. Every move or sequence you do should be in time with your breath, which will help relax your body. You’ll want to relax if you’re trying to do a back bend without breaking yourself in half, so begin to breathe slowly and deeply.
Inhale, and as you exhale, gently stretch into the pose you’re using to become more flexible. Do NOT forcibly push yourself to the point where it hurts or feels uncomfortable, as this will cause injury and ultimately you’ll end up even more tense – not what we want. Continue to stretch slowly and with ease to protect yourself. I know it’s tempting to slam your ankles into the floor the first time you do Downward Dog, and that you just want to be flexible now, but patience is a virtue. Take it slowly and you’ll thank me later.
Focus on the area you’re stretching:
The art to not injuring yourself is to be in tune with your body and knowing your boundaries. As you’re stretching, mentally focus on the muscles that you’re trying to improve in flexibility to make sure you aren’t pushing yourself too far. As you stretch, feel your muscles relax.
As you breathe in, come out of the stretch slightly. Exhale deeply and go back into the stretch slowly, focusing on the area you’re working on. If you can push yourself more than the previous breath, go for it, as long as it doesn’t hurt or feel strained. Your breathing will relax your body and allow you reach those deeper stretches more easily than if your breath was rapid and shallow. Come in and out of the stretch as many times as you wish to gain a higher range of motion.
Multiple stretches/Build a Flow:
Yoga ‘flows’ are a couple of poses put together to make a sequence. To get flexibility in one area, you’ll need to put a couple of different poses together to stretch all of the muscles that make it up. If you want to stretch your legs, for example, you may want to do different poses that stretch your hamstrings, glutes and inner thighs. Doing one stretch will not give you full flexibility in this area, putting multiple poses together will help you fully stretch the muscle.
Yoga flows targeting different areas are all over Pinterest, and a quick google search will give you more than you need. Personally, I prefer to put together a few poses I really like and feel like are suitable for me at that moment, and make my own flows and routines. This allows me to take it at my own pace, repeat and adapt the stretch as much as I need to and adjust the poses I use accordingly. However, if you prefer to practice with a teacher or guide, there are thousands of resources online dedicated to flexibility.
Consistency is Key:
Practice makes perfect, and the more effort you put into something, the more you’ll get out of it. (I like cliche phrases apparently, look forward to a lot of them in my blog!) That doesn’t mean that two hours once a week is going to give you the best results though, I’ve found that little and often is what will help you gain the most flexibility. Even ten to fifteen minutes everyday will allow you to make a huge amount of progress quickly, and you’ll soon see your body change with the practice (without force!) Though every day might not be possible for you, get it in when you can and remember doing a short time is better than nothing.
As well as these tips for your yoga practice, doing the following things may make your body more flexible:
- Drinking water and staying hydrated
- Eating whole foods (fruits and vegetables)
- Being active in your day to day life
- Taking a bath or shower before your practice (as this will warm your body up)
And that’s it! If you have any flexibility tips yourself, please comment down below.
Thank you for reading,