As we age, we lose water in our tissues and intervertebral discs, our muscles and tendons lose elasticity, and we start to experience the all too familiar feeling of “stiffness”. Flexibility is key in maintaining spine health which directly contributes to our overall sense of wellbeing. A Yoga Director at YogaRenew Teacher Training, Kate Lombardo, shares the 5 best stretches to help increase flexibility and why they’re good for you.
Seated Spinal Twist helps to stretch the spine and ribs and opens up the chest. This helps to improve posture and decrease back pain.
To do this, come to a comfortable cross-legged seat. Inhale and reach both arms overhead and as your exhale twist to your right and bring your right hand behind your back and your left hand over your right knee. Stay for a few breaths and continue lengthening on your inhale and twisting as you exhale. Unwind and repeat on the other side.
Reclined Pigeon Pose stretches the outer hips, thigh, and IT band which helps to create space and increase mobility in the pelvis.
To do this, lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Take your right ankle and cross it over your left knee, making a figure four shape. Lift your left knee into your chest and hold onto the back of your thigh with your hands. Hold for a few breaths and breathe into the stretch. Unwind and repeat on the other side.
Baddha Konasana – Butterfly Stretch stretches the outer hips and inner groin. If you add the forward fold it also helps to open the whole back, ribs, and back of the neck.
To do this, come to a seated position with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Bring the soles of your feet to touch and open your knees out to the side. As you inhale, lengthen your spine forward, and on your exhale, fold out over your hips. Don’t worry about how far forward you can fold, focus instead on sending your breath to anywhere that you’re feeling sensation in the body.
Crescent Lunge With Clasped Hands helps to stretch the hips and psoas while clasping the hands opens the shoulders and the chest.
To do this, come to a lunge and tap your back knee to the floor. Lift your spine and chest up. Move your tailbone forward to bring a stretch across the hip flexor of your back leg. Clasp your fingers behind your back and stretch them towards your back foot.
Standing Wide-Legged Forward Fold helps to lengthen the hamstrings and stretch the outer shins while balancing the stretch with a strengthening of the quadriceps. It also lengthens the spine and stretches the whole upper back and ribs.
To do this, begin with legs wider than hips distance apart (about 3-4 feet). Reach your arms up as you inhale and as you exhale dive forward and bring the hands to the floor or to yoga blocks. Press into the outer edges of the feet to help strengthen the legs as you stretch them.
~ Kate Lombardo, Yoga Director at YogaRenew Teacher Training