Strength is a great asset but it’s not complete without the ability to be flexible and remain open. This applies both practically and philosophically. Physically speaking though, flexibility and openness are beneficial for the body and they are both fast and easy to attain. This will lead to greater flexibility and openness in all other aspects of our life too – Our body is a great teacher.
Now if you’re not born naturally Gumby-like that’s totally okay. Anything at all can be achieved with willpower and perseverance. Yoga is absolutely the best means of reaching this, increasing your flexibility and also allowing the body to open up while simultaneously doing the same for your mind, heart and soul. (Win-win-win situation!)
Try these asanas to gently begin stretching and coaxing the body to reach its ultimate potential.
Easy or Half Lotus Pose
Never underestimate the power of simplicity. Take this pose frequently and you’ll notice a huge difference. Sit in half lotus pose when you read a book, when you eat or when you sit at your computer. I often take Half Lotus Pose at work when I’m in the office. Even as I write this article I am seated in Half Lotus Pose – you should take it too as you read the rest of this article!
- Begin by sitting with a tall and erect spine with your legs crossed.
- You can bring your right or left foot to rest upon the opposite thigh or just let them rest on the floor tucked in toward your pelvis if you wish.
- Place your hands on your knees with your palms facing up for more energy or facing down for more grounding. Alternatively, you can cusp your hands on your lap.
- Let your knees lower down toward the ground to further stretch and open the hips.
- Sit tall and breathe deeply.
Supta Padangusthasana variation (Supine Big Toe variation)
- Begin by lying flat on your back.
- Bring your left leg straight up and then grab your calf to guide the leg as close to your face as you can with an exhale. You can use a strap around your heel instead if you’re not feeling mega flexible just yet. We want to do this gently without straining in order to avoid pulling any muscles.
- Bring your forehead to rest upon your shin, hold this pose and breathe. If you’re overly stiff, your head can remain on the ground.
- After five breaths, slowly release the leg back down. Now bring the right leg straight up.
- Use your hands or a strap to bring your leg down as close to your face as possible.
- Bring the forehead to meet the shin or let it remain on your mat if you prefer.
- Keep breathing. Release any tension and allow the legs and hips to melt.
Tip: Try to bring the legs further down with each exhale for deeper opening.
Marjariasana (Cat & Cow Pose)
- Inhale and drop your navel down to the ground creating an arch in your spine.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together and let them roll down your back.
- Tilt your head back gaze up at the sky while tilting the tailbone up as if your head and tailbone are trying to touch.
Now, reverse that.
- Exhale and drop your head down to gaze toward your navel.
- Tuck your tailbone inward to create a curve in your back.
- Push your hands into the ground while lifting the middle of your spine into the sky.
- Repeat this process – Flow fluidly and follow your breath.
Utthita Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)
- Stand with your legs three or four feet apart with a straight spine.
- Inhale and extend your arms outward, parallel to the ground.
- Rotate your left foot outward by 90º.
- Gaze at the top of your left hand and then glide your body forward.
- As you exhale, bring the left hand down and place it directly in front of your left foot. You can use a block by your foot if you are unable to reach that far.
- When you feel stable, turn your head to look upward and gaze at your right hand.
- Hold this pose for five breaths and then gently rise up to face forward.
- Rotate your feet and repeat this pose on the right side.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog)
- Begin in flat tabletop pose on hands and knees. Tuck your toes under and drop your head to gaze toward your navel.
- As you exhale, push your hands into your mat while lifting and pulling your hips diagonally up to the sky.
- Rotate your pelvis upward for a deep stretch in the hamstrings.
- Support your weight with your core and legs, leaving minimal strain on your arms.
- Let your head to hang loose, releasing all tension in the neck.
- Hold this pose for five breaths.
Tip: Pretend that there is an imaginary string pulling your hips diagonally into the sky and another string pulling the top of your spine into the Earth.
Vriksasana (Tree Pose)
- Begin by standing in a tall Mountain Pose and bring your palms together at your chest for Prayer Pose.
- Shift all of your weight onto your left leg, root your foot into the ground and find stability.
- Rest your right foot on your left ankle and once you are stable grab your ankle to guide your foot onto your inner thigh. We want to make sure our foot never presses into the knee to avoid strain or injury.
- Push your foot into the thigh and the thigh back into the foot.
- Rotate your knee back to expose the pelvis and open the hips further.
- Raise your arms up above your head and then extend them outward like the branches of a tree.
- Breathe and balance and then repeat this pose on your right leg.
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
- Begin in a flat Tabletop position and then push yourself back to sit on the heels of your feet.
- Rest your forehead on the mat for an Extended Child’s Pose or bring the arms down to rest at your side for a basic Child’s Pose.
- Surrender, relax and let go here. Like always, keep breathing.
Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend Pose)
- Come to a seated position with a tall and erect spine.
- Stretch your legs out directly in front of you. Bring your feet together and keep your legs flat on your mat.
- With an inhale, elongate your spine. As you exhale, slowly start to walk your hands forward. The goal here is to bring our forehead to rest on our shins. If you can’t bend this deeply yet, that’s fine; don’t force or strain anything.
- Lengthen the spine with every inhale and bend a bit deeper with every exhale.
Supta Padangusthasana Variation (Supine Big Toe Pose Variation)
- Give the first pose a second try and notice that you can bring your leg much closer to your face now. You’ve already created greater openness in your hips, chest and heart. You go, Gumby!
Let the Stretchy Times Roll
Open up daily for an ideal and supple body. Use your breath as both your personal trainer and amiable assistant. As previously mentioned, an open and flexible body leads to an open and flexible state of mind. Spreading leads to spaciousness, and spaciousness inevitably leads to success in all aspects of your life. Live openly, flexi and free!