Unfortunately, there are no magic poses that’ll immediately make stiff muscles stretchy. Improving your flexibility takes time, effort, consistency, and, most of all, patience. However, there are some exercises you can do that will help you safely reach your flexibility goals.
If you’re starting a new workout routine, or just want to get more active this summer, it’s important to work up to certain exercises and activities. These stretching poses will help you loosen up those muscles and increase your flexibility so you can tackle more challenging workouts.
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Lunges are amazing exercises that not only stretch but also tone your muscles when done in repetition. To really stretch your fascia, though, they need to be held a bit longer. This enables your brain and muscles to connect and send relevant information to one another, shooting signals that it’s time to stretch it out.
Whether you choose a low or high lunge, make sure that the outstretched leg is straight and strong, activating your quadriceps and pushing the ball of your foot into the floor. Use your breath to guide you through the hold and with every exhale, try to go a little bit deeper into your bent knee, challenging your muscles to do the hard work.
If you’re just starting out, place your hands on the floor in a runner’s lunge and use them as leverage to keep your upper body straight and open, allowing yourself to really focus on the stretching part.
One of the best ways to help stretch out your hamstrings is a basic standing forward fold, where you’re using gravity to extend the fascia in the most natural and safest way possible. Starting with your knees bent, slowly bring your upper body towards the floor and let your arms dangle.
Bend your knees as much as you need to without feeling any pinching sensation in your hamstrings and take deep breaths, holding the pose for at least five long in- and exhales.
Over time, start challenging yourself by slightly extending your legs and stretching them out as far as you can without any uncomfortable sensations or pain. It takes time and patience, but progress is inevitable as long as you remain consistent and push through.
This type of forward fold is definitely harder to do than the standing version. This is because you have to use the strength of your spine and core to lift your abdomen and pull forward from the right muscles.
To enter this pose safely, make sure you’re sitting on your sitting bones by gently rolling your muscles from underneath you and straightening your spine. Take a big inhale and stretch your arms above your head, shoulders away from your ears. Exhale and begin guiding your straight torso forward into a diagonal above your legs. Keep your legs active and straight.
With every inhale try to grow from your sitting bones and keep your lower back as straight as possible, and with every exhale go a little bit further forward. When you can’t go any further, place your palms beside your legs, and then, on every inhale, try to walk your fingers an inch or two toward your feet. Keep your chest open and your back straight.
When you feel your spine beginning to curve, this is where you stop and breathe in your pose. The goal isn’t to touch your knees with your forehead or grab your feet, it’s to place your abdomen on your thighs. Then, and only then will you have actually increased the flexibility of your lower back and your hamstrings, allowing the whole muscle-joint connection to stretch out in the safest way.
This will undoubtedly take a lot of time to conquer, and if you’re finding it really hard to get into the starting position in the first place, sit against a wall and let it help support you as you simply breathe through stretching out the spine upwards and forward. Even the slightest movements will make a huge difference down the road.
This awesome stretch uses gravity as a tool. You start by lying on your back with your legs stretched out above you and resting on the wall. It’s a very passive position that eliminates any force or pulling sensation. Just leave everything up to gravity, and it’ll naturally work its magic on your muscles and tendons.
Start by scooting your sitting bones all the way against the wall as you lie on your back. Lift your legs up the wall and gently guide them down, opening them with your hands and letting them fall where they naturally do. Don’t try to force them any lower.
You can grab a book or your phone to distract yourself as your body is working to open up. Stay in this position for at least five minutes, and, over time, you’ll find you can hold it much longer.
Once you’re ready to come out of the stretch, be very gentle and try bending your legs first. Grab them behind your knees, then pull them toward your chest. Slowly roll to one side, push yourself away from the wall, then end in a seated position.
Yoga offers a variety of poses that will improve your flexibility, but pigeon pose is very special, as it combines both active and passive stretching to work the entire pelvic girdle.
Start in a comfortable seat, then bend your right leg in front of you and fully extend the left behind you. Bring your bent knee a bit outward into a diagonal, and try to place the hip flexor of your left leg onto the heel of your right, squaring off your hips.
Place your palms on the floor beside your hips, inhale deeply, then slowly start walking forward into a fold. You can go as far as you want. You can either relax your torso over your bent leg with your arms fully extended or grab your elbows and rest your forehead on your forearms.
With every inhale, feel yourself grow in both directions, through your straight leg and upper body. With every exhale, try to sink deeper, and simultaneously stretch your right hamstring and left hip flexor.
Hold for at least 5-10 long breaths, then switch sides.
Flexibility isn’t something you can miraculously improve overnight, but if you remain consistent and steady with your training, you will make progress. Keep at it, and before you know it, you’ll be able to tackle even the most challenging of workouts.