14 Yoga Stretches To Do Regularly If You Want To Become More Flexible

Make sure to nama-stay in each one for at least 30 seconds.

woman doing yoga in green field
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Feeling a bit stiff lately? Perhaps your routine could use some dedicated stretching time. All you need is a mat and this set of the very best yoga stretches from Obé trainer Eve Lynn Chrust, CPT. It won't take long to see (and feel) real improvements. You can complete them in as little as eight minutes, or linger longer and enjoy a 20 minute stretch sesh.

Why are these the best yoga stretches to do every day? Well, they can help you increase your flexibility and full range of motion from head to toe. The stretches target your hips, as well as your hamstrings, calves, back, shoulders, and arms (everything).

Keep in mind, the main goal of any type of static stretching is to stay in the position long enough for your brain to send a message to your muscles that it's cool to loosen up. It takes at least 30 seconds for them to get this memo, so make sure to nama-stay in each poses for at least that long in order to get the full effect.

Regularly taking time to slow your flow and settle into these yoga stretches can open up a whole bunch of benefits from this ancient practice. "Along with improving your mobility, posture, and joint health, yoga does wonders for your blood circulation, breathing, and your immune system," says Shweta Jain, certified yoga instructor at MyYogaTeacher.

Ahead, 14 yoga stretches to do regularly to improve your flexibility and overall well-being.

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1 Child's Pose

Good for: lats, hips, thighs, ankles

How to:

  1. Start seated with toes together and knees wide, butt resting on heels.
  2. Walk hands forward until arms are straight, forearms on floor, and lower torso so stomach rests on thighs and forehead is on mat.
  3. Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds.

Modification: If you have tightness in the hips and lower back, grab a bolster or blanket. "Place a bolster or stacked blankets lengthwise on your mat," says Jain. "As you lower yourself to the floor, rest your torso on the bolster or blankets."

    2 Thread the Needle

    Good for: shoulders, chest, arms, upper back, and neck

    How to:

    1. Start on all fours.
    2. Lift right arm toward ceiling while rotating torso to right side.
    3. Reverse the movement and continue rotating upper body and extended right arm through center and to the left, bringing right arm and shoulder to rest on the floor behind left palm (hips stay high) and placing right ear on mat.
    4. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds or more, then repeat on the opposite side.

    Modification: If you experience tightness or strain in the knees, grab a yoga block. "Try squeezing a yoga block between your thighs for better alignment," says Jain. "You can also place a block beneath your shoulder for more support."

    3 Cobra

    Good for: chest, abs, hip flexors

    How to:

    1. Start lying on stomach with legs extended straight behind body, arms bent and palms flat on the floor by ribs, shoulders and head lifted a few inches above mat, gaze just in front of nose so spine stays neutral.
    2. Push through palms to raise upper body higher, but stop if lower back hurts.
    3. Hold stretch for 30 seconds or more.

    Modification: If you have stiffness in the lower back, Jain notes that if lifting with your palms on the floor is too much, you can keep your forearms on the floor and only lift halfway instead.

    4 Upward Facing Dog

    Good for: quads, hip flexors, ankles, abs, chest

    How to:

    1. Start lying on stomach with legs extended straight behind body, arms bent and palms flat on the floor by ribs, shoulders and head lifted a few inches off mat, gaze right in front of nose so spine stays neutral.
    2. Push through palms to extend arms to straight, lifting torso up to look straight forward, pushing shoulders down away from ears, and picking thighs and shins up off the mat.
    3. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds or more.

    Modification: If you have strain in lower back or arm and you’re having trouble lifting your whole body from the floor, Jain suggests you try only lifting your body halfway, or place a rolled up towel, blanket, or yoga mat underneath your thighs for support.

    5 Puppy

    Good for: shoulders, upper back, arms, abs

    How to:

    1. Start seated with butt on heels.
    2. Walk hands forward to all fours position.
    3. Lower forearms on to the floor, dropping chest down and bringing forehead to rest on mat.
    4. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds or more, keeping hips high the whole time.

    Modification: If you have tightness in shoulders and/or back, and you are not able to sink all the way into this pose, Jain suggests you try using stacked blankets under your forearms for extra support.

    6 Downward Facing Dog

    Good for: hips, hamstrings, calves

    How to:

    1. Start on all fours.
    2. Tuck toes and lift hips into air, extending legs to straight and shifting weight back into feet so body forms an upside down "V" shape.
    3. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds or more.

    Modification: If your hamstrings and/or lower back is tight, Jain suggests that you lift your heels and softly bend your knees to avoid straining. You can also place a rolled up towel, blanket, or yoga mat under your heels for stability.

    7 Chair Pose

    Good for: glutes

    How to:

    1. Start standing with feet together and arms at sides.
    2. Lower into a squat, by pushing butt back and down, and raise arms overhead, bringing biceps by ears.
    3. Hold the position for 30 seconds or more.

    Modification: If you experience knee pain or difficulty balancing (you're wobbling in this pose), Jain suggests that you can practice it against a wall. "Stand about a foot’s length from the wall, and as you sit into the pose, rest your backside against the wall," she says.

    8 High Lunge

    Good for: ankles, calves, hamstrings and hip flexors

    How to:

    1. Start standing at front of mat with feet under hips and arms at sides.
    2. Fold forward, place fingers on floor, and step left foot to back far enough that right knee can bend to 90 degrees.
    3. Lift torso up until shoulders are over hips and extend arms overhead, biceps by ears.
    4. Hold the pose for 30 seconds or more. Then, repeat on opposite side.

    Modification: If your front leg feels wobbly or strained, Jain suggests shifting your weight and placing your back knee on the ground. You can also place your hands on your hips for added stability.

    9 Extended Side Angle

    Good for: abs

    How to:

    1. Start in a warrior II position with right leg forward, knee bent at 90 degrees and heel bisecting inner arch of left foot.
    2. Tilt torso forward over right thigh and down so that fingertips of right hand can rest on the floor inside of right foot, and extend left arm forward, bringing bicep by ear.
    3. Hold the pose for 30 seconds or more. Then, repeat on opposite side.

    Modification: If you are unable to rest hand on the floor or difficulty balancing, Jain suggests that you can rest your front forearm on the top of your front bended leg, or place your hand on a block next to your front foot. You can also use the seat of a chair to support your front bent leg for help balancing in this pose.

    10 Triangle

    Good for: hamstring (front leg), hips

    How to: Start with right leg forward, left leg back, feet wider than shoulders (right toes facing top of mat, outside of left foot parallel to bottom of mat), upper body facing left side, and arms extended straight at shoulder height. Lean torso forward and lower it down until right hand can rest on floor, block, or ankle, stretching left hand toward ceiling and looking up at it.

    Modification: If you experience knee pain or tightness in your hips, Jain suggests you try sitting on a folded blanket or a block, and position your feet a little further away from your body.

    11 Butterfly

    Good for: inner thighs

    How to: Start seated with legs together and bent, feet flat on the floor, hands hugging knees, and spine long. Open legs like a book and bring soles of feet together, grasping toes. Actively push knees down toward mat.

    Modification: If you have tight hamstrings and hips, try placing your hand on a block positioned next to your front foot for support and to avoid straining.

    12 Bridge

    Good for: hip flexors, quads

    How to: Start lying on back with arms at sides and legs bent, feet flat on the floor. Squeeze glutes and lift hips into air. Pull shoulder blades together and bring hands to clasp under body on mat.

    Modification:
    If you feel tension in your neck or spine, Jain suggests you use a folded blanket underneath your shoulders, or place a block under your lower back for more support.

    13 Plow

    Good for: shoulders, back, neck, hamstrings, and calves

    How to: Start lying on back with arms at sides and legs bent, feet flat on the floor. Push arms down into mat and lift legs straight up and then overhead, bringing toes to touch floor, balancing on shoulders. Bend arms to bring hands to lower back for extra support.

    Modification: If you are unable to touch toes to the floor, Jain suggest you position a chair behind you and rest your toes on the seat of the chair instead.

    14 Wheel

    Good for: shoulders, chest, abs, hip flexors, quads

    How to: Start lying on back with legs bent, feet flat on the floor, arms bent and overhead so that palms are flat on mat by ears, fingers pointing toward shoulders. Squeeze glutes and push down through hands and heels, lifting body up off of floor until all four limbs are straight.

    Modification: Keep knees bent and over ankles instead of fully extending legs if doing so creates pain in lower back.

    If you have strain in your lower back, or difficulty lifting in the pose, Jain recommends only lifting halfway and keeping your knees bent. You can also place stacked bolsters lengthwise on your mat for more support.

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