Yoga basics

What are some suggested postures one can practice to improve flexibility?

Ask a Yogi Series

You’ve followed them on Facebook. You might even take their classes in person once in awhile if they travel to or live in your city. But how well do you know our YogaGlo teachers? We’ve created a new series, Ask a Yogi, so you can learn more about them by asking questions you’ve always wanted to ask.

From favorite poses and tips for beginners to deeper questions about how their practice has changed their worldview, our teachers will collectively answer a new question each week. If you have a questions that you’d like to “Ask a Yogi”, let us know in the comments or email us at and we’ll add your question to the list. Today’s Ask a Yogi question is:

What are some suggested postures one can practice to improve flexibility?

  • Elena Brower: Downdog with slightly bent knees, either at the wall or with hands on a table or chair back, then slowly moving thigh bones back, is a great way to open up our hamstrings and start a process of opening up our spines, our breathing and our ways of seeing.
  • Kathryn Budig: I think Sun Salutes are the best because they get your body moving in all different directions.
  • Jason Crandell: Since the vast majority of poses will help improve your flexibility, learning to relax your nervous system while experiencing physical resistance may be a more helpful suggestion. Relax your eyes, ears, and tongue when you sustain a stretch. Also, practice lengthening your exhalation and letting go of any frustration and expectation that arises when you feel resistance in your body. Don’t allow yourself to get in a tug-of-war with your body—this will turn you against yourself.
  • Tiffany Cruikshank: Practice, practice, practice and then let go of your attachment to the outcome and practice some more.  When we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to progress we actually tend to clench up and pull back, actually hindering our progress. So let go and enjoy and trust that you will get just what you need.
  • Steven Espinosa: First I would determine where are your major areas of tightness? For most people it’s the lower body (i.e., hips, hamstrings, thighs, lower back) and/or upper body (thoracic spine, shoulders). Then proceed gradually from there by suggesting certain poses to target those specific areas. I also believe proper alignment helps greatly by allowing the body to open up naturally from a bio-mechanical level. Many people just think about stretching muscles. But when muscle and bone are aligned together flexibility occurs organically and exponentially faster.
  • Marc Holzman: I’d like to go outside the box and address flexibility of the mind and heart as they can become as stiff, creaky, and dry as our hamstrings): Spend more time in nature, do seva (volunteer work) for those less fortunate, do something that scares the crap out of you. Journal.
  • Amy Ippoliti: All of them! And the postures in which you feel the most stiff and tight – do those poses three times as much as the ones that are easier for you and you will quickly see improvement in your flexibility overall.
  • Tara Judelle: I think the most important thing to improve flexibility is consistency. The body needs repetition and immersion in order to learn. If I were to give 2 basic poses to do everyday I would suggest standing forward bend with hands clasped behind the back (Uttansasana variation) and Pigeon prep with a thigh stretch (Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana prep, thigh stretch variation). If I were to do my own advanced flexibility sequence I would work Hanumanasana (Splits), Urdhva Danurasana (Upward facing bow), Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana (Full One Legged King Pigeon), Agnistambasana (Firelog Pose), Upavista Konasana (Extended angle seated forward bend).
  • Kia Miller: This is a huge question as it depends on where you need the flexibility. Yoga is a balance between flexibility and strength,  we may be strong in some area and flexible in others. The key is to lean to stabilize the more flexible area whilst opening and stretching where you are tight. Sun salutations are my favorite all round postures as they work all the major muscle groups and create heat in the body, which is key when we are looking to improve flexibility. Do at least 5 sun salutes, then hone in on the poses that help your area of tightness (ham string stretches, shoulder openers etc). Do this as a daily practice to receive optimum results. Be patient and create a positive affirming relationship with your body – this is where maximum results are gained.
  • Christina Sell: My favorite poses for hamstring and hip flexibility is the Supta Padangusthasana series as outlined in Light on Yoga. My favorite to stretch the piriformis muscel is Succirandrasana or Figure-four pose. My favorite pose for stretching the quadriceps is supta Virasana. My favorite pose to stretch the shoulders is Gomukhasana. My favorite  pose to open the chest is Viparita Dandasana over a chair. In general, when I want to improve flexibility in myself or in my students I take the strength requirement out of the pose as much as possible and work in supported positions with integrated strength, long holds,  repetition and regularity.
  • Stephanie Snyder: Supta Padanghustasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Shalabasana, and Pigeon Pose.
  • Jo Tastula: Lunge with hands interlaced behind the back is my go-to counter pose if I’ve been sitting at the computer for too long. However, over particular postures, I’d suggest what ever you do, practice with regularity. Regularity is the key to flexibility.
  • Felicia Tomasko: I am admittedly biased, as I focus a great deal on a Yin style of practice. Of course, this is not the only thing I teach—or practice myself—as Yin is meant to be an adjunct practice, a cross-training as it were. I find that patience and persistence, slow and steady, is vitally important for melting the resistance in the body and allowing ourselves to become more flexible. It is also necessary for us to recognize what can and cannot be changed regarding our physiology. For example, bone structure determines some measure of flexibility. (I’m not about to audition to be a contortionist for Cirque de Soleil), but there is much that can be changed. (My regular practice allows my spine to be supple and allows me to easily tie my shoes). Without my regular practice, I find myself stiff and cranky, with shoulders up to my ears and a tight back. Flexibility definitely changes, but I find that what is more important than a specific pose is the compassion with which I greet myself in any pose, the way in which I can soften and surrender, and the use of the breath to assist in this process.
  • Harshada Wagner: A posture of humility and innocence is a good place to start, a posture of not-knowing.

Ask a Yogi: What are some suggested postures one can practice to improve flexibility?

You Might Also Like