While you don’t need to be flexible to practice yoga, however yoga will improve your flexibility. The more you attempt the yoga poses that I will share in this post, the more you will discover how you can increase your flexibility with yoga. You will be starting with the suggested variations I will offer and over time, you will see that you can let go of some of the props and get deeper into the poses.
How to Increase Flexibility With Yoga: Best Yoga Poses to Increase Your Flexibility
Do the yoga routine included with this post a few times a week to increase your flexibility. You will see improvement in your inner hips, hamstrings, hip flexors, shoulders, as well as back flexibility. You can also check out my post 5 Yoga Poses for Strength and Flexibility for days when you want to work on both your strength and flexibility with yoga.
To increase your flexibility with yoga, hold each of the poses for at least a minute.
1. Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana )
The downward-facing dog is one of my favorite beginner poses to increase flexibility. Similarly to the forward fold (which is also in this list of yoga poses to increase your flexibility), you are engaging your front body to stretch your back body but you’re also engaging your upper body as your press your hands on the mat.
How to Use the Downward-Facing Dog Pose to Increase Your Flexibility
Here’s how you can use the downward-facing dog pose to increase your flexibility:
- Start on all four.
- Exhale and lift up as you straighten your legs, keeping your hands on the mat.
- Feel your pelvis tilting upward, and spread your weight on all your fingers.
- Lift through your shoulders as your wrap your arms towards your midline.
Don’t bring your heels down to the mat and slightly bend your knees.
2. Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
I use the pigeon pose and its variations in almost all my stretching routines. It is an effective multipurpose pose, just like I like them.
How to Use the Pigeon Pose to Increase Your Flexibility:
Here’s what you are going to do:
- Bring your right knee at the back of your right wrist as you bend your right leg.
- Take your right foot either near your left hip or your left wrist. Try keeping your right shin parallel to the top of the mat if you can.
- Make sure your hips are facing forward.
- Press your right thigh down on the mat.
Sit on a yoga block if you are having a hard time balancing because you can’t sit low enough in the pose. Take your foot closer to your hip.
3. Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
You can plan with the forward fold in many ways as you increase your flexibility with yoga. Whenever you practice your forward fold, remember that as stretch your back body, you are contracting your front body (engage your lower abs and your quadriceps, in particular).
How to Use the Forward Fold to Increase Your Flexibility
Here’s how you will get into your forward fold:
- Stand straight.
- Bend at the hips while lengthening your torso as you exhale.
- Think about lifting your kneecaps and your tailbone. You are engaging your lower abs.
- Keep your weight evenly distributed on your feet.
Only straighten your legs to the point that you feel the stretch in the middle part of your hamstrings. If you mostly feel the stretch or pull up near your sitting bones, that’s an indicator that you’ve straightened your legs too much. Relax your head, face, and jaw.
You can do the forward fold with your feet together, hip-distance apart, or even about three feet apart (for a wide-legged forward fold, which will increase your inner thigh flexibility). You can bend your elbows and hold them with each opposing hand, you can clasp your hands behind your back or just let your arms dangle down as your hands touch the mat.
Bend your knees to keep your chest close to your thighs. Use yoga blocks if your hands don’t reach the mat.
4. Reclined Big Toe Pose (Supta Padangusthasana)
This is one of my favorite poses to stretch the hamstrings. It is both effective and relaxing.
How to Use the Reclined Big Toe Pose to Increase Your Flexibility
Here’s how you can use the reclined pig toe pose to increase your flexibility:
- Lie on your back with your legs straight.
- Bring your right knee in and hug it into your chest.
- At this point, even if you are able to grab your right leg with your hands, I like to use a yoga strap as I get into the pose. Wrap your yoga strap around your right foot and press up and down on it (I demonstrate this in the flexibility routine).
- Keep your strap or let go of it if you have enough flexibility and point your toes to the right as you make sure you keep your left hip glued to the mat. Stay there for about 30 seconds.
- Bring your toes to the center for 30 seconds.
- Lastly, take your toes to the left and make sure your right hip stays on the mat. You can even press it down with your right hand.
Wrap a yoga strap around the lifted leg if you can’t reach it with your hands.
5. Cow Face Pose (Gomukhasana)
Another excellent multipurpose yoga pose to increase your flexibility: the cow face pose. It will stretch your shoulders and arms, your ankles, hips, thighs, and back.
How to Increase Your Flexibility With the Cow Face Pose
Here’s how you will get into the pose:
- Sit with your legs outstretched in front of you (Staff Pose).
- Bend your legs and stack your knees with the right one on top of the left to start.
- Bring your right heel to the outside of your left hip.
- Press down evenly on your sitting bones.
- Lift through your spine as you inhale.
- As you exhale, bend your right arm and bring the back of your right hand up between your shoulder blades.
- With your next inhale, extend your left arm up and bend it to clasp your fingers together.
Sit on a yoga block if your hips are tight. Hold your lifted elbow with your other hand instead of clasping your hands behind your back.
6. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Well, as you learn how to increase your flexibility with yoga, your routine wouldn’t be complete without some back flexibility poses. I love all those heart-opening poses as they boost energy, fight fatigue, and build confidence.
How to Increase Your Flexibility With the Cobra Pose
Here’s what you will do:
- Lie in the prone position with your feet hip-distance apart and your hands under your armpits.
- Press the tops of your feet down to activate your quadriceps.
- As you exhale, lift your upper body up by pressing into your hand lightly.
- Lift up your head, and chest.
- Roll your shoulder blades down.
- Keep your neck long, and tuck your chin in slightly as you lift your heart up.
- Straighten your arms and keep your shoulders down.
Fold your arms in front of you at a 90-degree angle instead of lifting up on your straight arms or don’t straighten your arms completely.
7. Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
Another beautiful heart-opening pose to increase your energy and make you feel amazing.
How to Increase Your Flexibility With the Camel Pose
Here’s how you do the camel pose:
- Come unto your knees with your legs hip-distance apart.
- Inhale as you engage your lower abs and press down your tailbone. Exhale.
- On your next, inhale, lift your heart up and bring your hands down on your heels behind you.
- Keep your gaze in front of you or lower your head down.
Tuck your toes to bring your heels higher up. Another option is to place your hands on your butt instead of your heels.
8. Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
You can use the low lunge to increase your hip flexor and back flexibility all at once.
How to Increase Your Flexibility With the Low Lunge Pose
- From downward-facing dog, step your right foot between your hands.
- Align your right knee and your right heel.
- Lower your left knee and untuck your left toes.
- Lift your torso up and extend your arms overhead.
- Draw your tailbone down and engage your left glute.
- Lift your pelvic floor up as you engage your lower abs.
- Look up as you tuck your chin in slightly.
Keep your hands on your front knee rather than extending your arms up.
9. Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend (Upavistha Konasana)
The wide-angle seated forward bend is my favorite inner hip stretch of all time!
How to Increase Your Flexibility With the Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend
Here’s what you will do:
- Sit with your legs outstretched in front of you.
- Open your legs up as much as you can.
- Flex your feet and point your toes up.
- Ensure your quadriceps are facing the ceiling.
- Inhale and lengthen your spine.
- Exhale and hinge down at your hips.
- Walk your hands down as far as you can in front of you.
Keep your hands on your hips or even behind you as you bring your torso forward instead of walking your hands down in front of you.
Why Increasing Your Flexibility Is Important
increasing your flexibility will enable you to safely get deeper into some workout moves, but it is also beneficial in itself. Here are some examples of flexibility benefits you will experience:
- Greater range of motion
- Better posture
- Reduced risk of injury
- Improved circulation
- Better mood
- Improved coordination
- Increased strength
Read more about each of these benefits in my post 5 Reasons Why It Is Important to Improve Your Flexibility.
Check out my full-body flexibility program for your step-by-step roadmap to increasing your flexibility in three stages.