For whatever reason, one of the most often heard excuses regarding people not giving yoga a shot is: “I can’t even touch my toes.” Well… Guess what? Do you think we could touch our toes when we first started yoga??
Being flexible is something that is more in the mind than the body. If you just let go of the thought of reaching for the perfect pose, the barriers that you have created, and tension in your mind, you might just surprise yourself. Relax your mind in order to let your body take over.
While you’re working on this, give these changes to a few poses a try. Do each of these three times per week, taking about five to ten deep breaths. Let’s see how it goes. Remember to take deep breaths as this is a vital part of yoga in general. Every inhale should be used to create space, and during every exhale, let go of any tension and stress in your mind. Just release!
- Open Low Lunge Twist – Increase flexibility in hamstrings, spine, and hips. Start with a forward fold, flat feet, and wide stance. Bend your knees enough so your hands are able to touch the floor. Step your left foot back into a low lunge. Stand on the ball of your left foot. Keeping your left hand on the floor, turn your right foot outward just a bit. Reach your right arm to the ceiling, stretch, and breathe slowly and deeply. With every inhale, lengthen your spine. With every, exhale, twist just a bit more. Change sides and repeat this pose. Starting to feel good?
- Thread the Needle – Increase flexibility in the spine and shoulders. Bend forward and put your hands on the floor to get on all fours. Reach your left arm below your body and allow your left shoulder and temple to relax toward the floor. Keep your right hand on the floor, or you may walk it a tad to the left towards your head. Breathe slowly here and switch sides. Repeat.
- Extended Side Angle – Increase flexibility in the spine, waist, and hips. Start in the warrior II position with your left leg forward. Laterally bend in your left waist and relax your left forearm toward your right thigh. Reach your right arm up toward the ceiling and then to the front of your yoga mat over your head. Drop your right shoulder away from your ear and open your chest up towards the ceiling. Breathe slowly here and switch sides. Repeat.
- Single-Leg Forward Bend with Blocks – Increases flexibility in your hamstrings. Start in the down dog pose with your hands on blocks that are turned to medium height. Round your right knee to your nose and step your right foot between your hands to get into a low lunge. Raise your hips upward and begin to stretch both of your legs (they don’t have to be fully straight). Now take your blocks to the tallest height if that provides more space. Keep your hands on the blocks on either side of your right leg. Turn your left heel down so your left foot is at a 45-degree angle. Square off your hips and remember to breathe here. Repeat the same process with your left foot being forward.
- Modified Squat – Increases flexibility in Achilles’ tendon and hips. Take a yoga mat and roll it up as tight as possible. Place your heels on this mat so that your feet are out as wide as the mat. Angle toes outward while getting into a standing forward fold. Bend your knees and relax your hips toward the floor. Hover above at whichever height feels right to you. Keep your knees in line with your ankles. Take your elbows inside of your thighs, while gently pushing them out. Bring your hands together into prayer pose at the center of your chest. Keep your spine stretched. Breathe slowly here.
- Hip-Opening Crow Variation – Good hip-opener for the stronger set. Start in the modified squat we just learned. Plant your palms apart about shoulder-width on your yoga mat while lining up your wrist creases with the front of your mat. Press into your fingertips and look slightly forward. Take your inner thighs to your outer upper arms and gently use your thighs to squeeze your arms toward each other. Bend your elbows gently while keeping them in line with your shoulders, careful not to wing them out. Then one foot at a time, lift your foot off of the floor, and reach your heels towards your butt. Keep your gaze just slightly forward and begin to stretch your arms. Don’t forget to breathe! Want to step it up?
- Seated Forward Bend with Blocks and Strap – Increase flexibility in back and legs. Have a seat on a blanket or block with your legs stretched and together out in front of you. Grab a strap and loop it around your feet. Keep your knees bent slightly. Utilize every inhale to stretch through your spine and every exhale to relax a bit more forward. Be sure to keep stretching your belly while careful not to round your spine. Once you begin to feel like you are at your desired pose, relax your neck, and breathe slowly.