Since yoga was introduced to the West in the 20th century, it has been embraced as a beneficial physical activity. Deep stretch yoga, specifically, is a fantastic way to boost flexibility when tight muscles cause discomfort or constrain movement.
Yoga also teaches body awareness, promotes balance, and strengthens the core. It can lengthen muscles and relieve stiffness caused by sedentary lifestyles, stress, or underuse of a particular muscle group. Those who practice yoga for stretching and flexibility generally improve their posture as well.
Below are three deep stretch yoga poses for alleviating stiffness.
Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana in Sanskrit)
This well-known rejuvenating pose stretches shoulders, hamstrings, calves, feet, and hands. A good arm and leg strengthener, Downward-Facing Dog elongates the spine and is thought to aid in digestion. For tight leg muscles, this pose helps loosen the backs of the legs. Downward-Facing Dog also opens the chest and stretches the shoulders.
How to perform Downward-Facing Dog:
- Gently move onto your hands and knees, toes tucked. Arms should be straight.
- As you exhale, straighten your legs as best you can. Lift your hips as you lengthen your spine. Your head and torso face down as you reach your arms ahead of you, with your fingers spread out on the floor. Aim to press your heels toward the ground.
- Raise shoulders up and then roll them back. The tailbone should be pointed upward.
- Breathe normally. The head and neck should be relaxed. Remain in this pose for up to one minute. Exhale and come down onto all fours.
Camel (Ustrasana in Sanskrit)
Camel Pose is a simple backbend that increases shoulder mobility and opens the chest. This is another great for pose for people who sit hunched at a desk all day. Slouching can wreak havoc on our organs by compressing them and can lead to back problems as well. Camel pose stretches the body’s front muscles: thighs, abs, chest, and neck. Beginners tend to shy away from backbend poses, but simple modifications make them more accessible.
How to do Camel Pose:
- Kneel with your thighs perpendicular to the floor. Place your hands on the backs of your hips. Hold your shins and feet firmly against the floor.
- Exhale as you gently arch backwards, moving your hips and thighs forward. Curve the spine slightly as your abdomen stretches. Keep your upper chest open and your shoulder blades back. Allow your neck to gently extend to where you still feel comfortable.
- Place your hands on your heels and soles, arms straight. If this stretch is too deep, place your hands on blocks beside your calves. Allow your head and neck to extend back, without straining. Breathing normally, remain in this position for up to 20 seconds. When ready, inhale and engage the buttocks to slowly raise yourself back up.
Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana in Sanskrit)
Extended Triangle Pose is a wonderful total-body stretch. It targets the shoulders, chest, hips, legs (especially hamstrings), arms, and sides of the torso and improves balance and full-body alignment. Triangle Pose will help you get the deep stretch you’re looking for and feels great while you’re doing it. Focusing on alignment is key to this pose.
How to perform Extended Triangle Pose:
- Standing up straight with feet facing forward, slide your feet out about three to four feet as you inhale. Stretch your arms out to the sides.
- Turn your right foot slightly inward (about 15 degrees) and turn your left leg from the hip socket at a 90-degree angle, with your left foot turned out. Your thigh and knee should point in the same direction of the left big toe.
- As you exhale, bend down over your left leg as you move your hips slightly to the right. With the palms of your hands facing forward, stretch your left arm down to the floor, and reach your right arm up to the ceiling. For balance, press the inner left foot and outer right foot into the floor. Your left hand can rest on the floor, on your shin, or on a block behind your left leg.
- Turn your head in the direction of your right arm, but if you experience tension simply face forward. Stay in this pose for up to 30 seconds, and then inhale as you raise back up. Repeat on the other side.
Consult your medical professional before trying these poses or if you have any health concerns.
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