Not every workout needs to involve reaching for that weight set you impulsively ordered online or doing lunges until you're shaking. When you're a little too sore for deadlifts or squats on squats, toss on some comfy leggings, like the Under Armour Meridian Crop ($60), and roll out the yoga mat for a nice, deep stretching session instead.
I spoke to Travis Eliot, E-RYT 500 yoga and meditation teacher and cofounder of Inner Dimension TV, to get a low-impact stretching flow for improving flexibility. Each of these moves can be completed on its own or together as a flow. Plus, you can be a yoga newbie and still get major mobility benefits.
1. Half Flat Back Pulse: targets the hamstrings and lower back
- From a standing position, fold over toward the floor. Slide your hands up to your shins beneath your knees until your torso is parallel to the floor. Focus on creating length from your tailbone through the top of your head.
- Keep your neck long by gazing straight down. Inhale to create spinal length, then exhale to let your torso fold toward the floor.
- Repeat five to 10 times. After the last cycle, remain in a forward bend and hold your elbows, creating a box shape around your head. Take several deep breaths for about a minute, allowing the exhales to create more length and space in your hamstrings.
2. Half Sun Salutations Flow: targets the posterior chain
- Begin standing with your hands in prayer position at your chest, then inhale and circle your arms up.
- Exhale and fold toward the floor into a forward bend. Inhale and slide your hands up to your shins and lengthen your chest out into a half-flat back.
- Exhale and fold deeper toward the floor into a forward bend. Inhale and rise up to a standing position while lifting your arms up overhead.
- Exhale and return your hands to prayer position at your chest like you initially started. Repeat this sequence five to 10 times, focusing on linking breath to movement.
3. Crossed-Leg Standing Fold: targets the calf muscles
- Begin in a standing position and cross one leg over the other. Inhale and circle your arms overhead, then exhale and fold over your legs.
- Rest your hands on your feet or shins — wherever it feels right. Relax your head and neck, imagining your torso is like a heavy blanket draping over your legs.
- Hold for one minute before switching which leg is crossed over the other and repeat the flow.
4. Half Butterfly: targets the hamstrings, calf muscles, and spinal muscles
- Begin seated and extend your left leg out along the floor.
- Bring the bottom of your right foot to your inner left thigh. Inhale and reach your arms up.
- Exhale and fold your torso over your extended left leg, resting your hands on your ankle or shin. You can also use a strap or towel and lasso it around the bottom of your left foot for a modification.
- Hold the stretch for at least a minute before repeating with the other leg.
5. Reclining Hand to Big Toe Pose: targets back pain, sciatica, and the hamstrings
- Begin by lying on your back. Draw your right knee to your belly.
- With both hands, grab your right hamstring and extend your right leg up to the ceiling. Your left leg remains relaxed on the floor. Similar to above, you can lasso a strap or towel around the bottom of your right foot and extend your right leg toward the ceiling for a modification.
- Hold the stretch for one to two minutes before repeating on the opposite leg.