Want to Become More Flexible? Do This Yoga Sequence
Don't take your aching, tight back lying down! Fight back with the gentle yet effective power of yoga. Relief could be as simple as increasing flexibility in your spine, and this yoga sequence will help to stretch and elongate the muscles in the torso. Becoming more bendy not only eases pain, but it also improves your posture, making your tummy look trimmer. Complete these 14 poses once on the right side and then on the left.
Relaxed Down Dog
This easy version of Downward Facing Dog allows you to target the back more than the hamstrings.
- Come onto your hands and feet in Downward Facing Dog.
- Bend your knees, lift your heels off the mat, and allow your spine to arch, pressing your navel toward your thighs.
- Stay like this for five breaths.
Arching Three-Legged Dog
This variation of Three-Legged Dog involves bending the knee of your top leg, increasing the flexibility in your hip flexors, spine, and hamstrings.
- From Relaxed Down Dog, step both feet together so your big toes are touching. Keeping the left heel on the mat, raise your right leg in the air coming into Three-Legged Dog, and then bend the knee. Actively squeeze your right heel in toward your hip, lifting the knee high.
- Lift your head up and turn to look over your left shoulder, arching the spine. Think about drawing your head and foot toward each other (if your spine is extremely flexible, your foot and head will touch).
- Hold here for five breaths, keeping the belly still and breathing into the chest.
Strong and poised like a ballerina, this pose is an advanced version of Extended Tabletop.
- From Arching Three-Legged Dog, keep your left foot where it is. Bring your right knee into your chest, raise your left hand up, and simultaneously rotate your torso 180 degrees so your belly is pointing up toward the ceiling as you plant your right foot on the ground about a foot and a half to the right of your left foot.
- Deeply arch the spine, and reach your left fingertips toward the floor.
- Actively press into your feet and right hand to lift the hips as high as you can, breathing here for five breaths, gazing at your extended hand.
Continue working the same muscles as you flip around and flow into Wild Thing on the other side.
- Keep your left foot planted firmly, and plant your left hand on the mat in Down Dog position.
- Raise your right leg into the air, coming back into Arching Three-Legged Dog with the right knee bent, and then allow it to gently fall to the floor behind you.
- Extend your right arm into the air, arch, and reach your fingertips toward the floor.
- Actively press into your feet and left hand to lift your hips as high as you can, staying here for five breaths, gazing at your right hand.
Open hip flexors are a must for spinal flexibility, so here's a pose that will target the front of the hips as well as offer a nice stretch for the front of the body.
- Lift your right foot and arm into the air, and rotate your torso 180 degrees, pivoting on your left foot. Plant your right hand in Down Dog position, and bring your right knee between your hands, coming into Pigeon.
- Plant your palms beside your hips, and gently arch back, releasing your head between your shoulder blades.
- Enjoy this pose for five breaths.
This pose will continue to open the hips as well as offer a deep spinal twist.
- From Arching Pigeon, release your left elbow to the mat in front of your right knee, palm facing down.
- Raise your right arm into the air and hold your right hip or for a deeper twist, hold onto your right toes. Actively draw your right shoulder back as you gaze over the top shoulder.
- Breathe here for five breaths.
A classic backbend, Camel also helps open tight shoulders.
- From Revolved Pigeon, untwist the torso, plant your palms on the mat in front of you, and step your left knee forward, coming to stand on the shins. Make sure the knees are hip-width distance apart.
- Lean back and place your hands on your heels, arching back, and allowing the head to fall between the shoulder blades.
- Continue to press the hips forward, enjoying this pose for five breaths.
This pose is similar to Cobra, but bending the knees will help to deepen the stretch.
- Rise up from Camel, place your hands on the mat in front of you, and come to lie on the belly. Walk your hands in toward your hips, coming into Cobra.
- Actively press into the palms, bend both knees, arch back, and try to touch your toes to your head.
- Stay here for five deep breaths.
Half Bound Squat
This hip-opening squat variation offers a nice lower back release as well as a deep stretch for the chest and shoulders.
- Release King Pigeon Pose and hop your feet forward, coming into Wide Squat.
- Bring your right arm between your knees. Lower your right shoulder as far under your right knee as possible, so you hug your knee with your armpit as you reach your right forearm around your back with your palm facing away from your body.
- Reach your left arm up as high as you can, bend your elbow, and bring the back of your left palm to your lower back.
- Try to have the right fingers through the left. If they're close enough, hold your left wrist with your right hand, with the left palm facing behind you.
- Stay here for five deep breaths. Come back to Wide Squat for one complete breath to release the pose and repeat on the left side. Then return back to Wide Squat.
Another classic backbend, this is a prep for Full Wheel Pose that'll open the shoulders as well as the muscles in the front of the body.
- From Wide Squat, sit down on the mat and slowly roll backwards, resting on your spine. Bend both knees and plant the soles of the feet on the mat directly under the knees. Try to keep the feet parallel.
- Interlace the hands in a double fist, and gently rock the upper torso from side to side to bring the shoulder blades closer together.
- Actively press into the feet to lift the pelvis, holding here for five breaths. Then lower the hips and hug the knees into the chest.
Two-Legged Inverted Staff Pose
Here's an advanced backbend that targets the upper spine.
- After hugging the knees, plant the soles of the feet on the mat so the heels are close to the hips. Plant your palms on the mat above your shoulders so the fingertips are pointing at the feet.
- Press into the palms and feet, lifting the head off the floor for a brief moment, but then release the crown of the head to the ground. Lower your elbows to the floor and interlace the fingers so the palms cup the top of the head (as if doing Bound Headstand).
- Slowly walk your feet away from you, straightening the legs.
- Hold here for five breaths.
One-Legged Inverted Staff
Here's a more challenging variation of Two-Legged Inverted Staff Pose that'll help to strengthen the upper legs.
- From Two-Legged Inverted Staff Pose, walk the feet toward the head as far as you can, and then raise the right leg in the air.
- Hold here for five breaths, lower the right leg, and then raise the left leg, holding for another five breaths. Release the left foot to the floor.
The most basic backbend, this challenging pose not only increases flexibility in the spine, it also strengthens the upper body.
- From Two-Legged Inverted Staff, release your clasped hands and plant the palms on the floor in front of the face.
- Press into the palms to lift the head off the floor. Walk your hands and feet as close as you can toward each other.
- After five strong breaths, release the hips to the mat and hug the knees into the chest.
Here's a relaxing way to increase side-to-side spinal flexibility.
- After hugging the knees into the chest, cross your right knee in front of your left knee. Wrap your left toes around the back of your right ankle, just like in Eagle Pose.
- Extend your arms out in cactus position with your elbows at right angles, palms facing up.
- Slowly lower both knees to the left. Rest them on the ground, and turn your head to the right.
- Hold here for at least five breaths, feeling your spine lengthen and twist. You may even hear some "cracks."
- Use your abs to lift your knees back to center. Uncross your legs and cross them the opposite way, with your left knee on top. Slowly lower both knees to the right, and look over your left shoulder.
- After five breaths, lift the knees back to center. Uncross the legs, sit up, and work your way back to Downward Facing Dog, repeating this sequence on the left side.