3 Yoga Stretches To Improve Flexibility and Your Overall Health
Christine Chen Certified Yoga Teacher and Author | My Body
I hear this all the time: “I’m not flexible, so I can’t do yoga.” Guess what? You don’t have to be. Yoga helps us build and maintain flexibility and strength in a way that’s functional for real health in real life.
Even if you can’t do much and know nothing, you can show up, try, and start to feel the benefits right away. You’ll already be demonstrating flexibility in your life… just by trying something new. You’ll be a healthier person from that point forward.
If we’re just talking about physical stretching, yoga will help you move better (or even sit still longer), reducing injury and helping other parts of your internal health, too – heart, muscles, joints, lungs – the list is long. In fact many doctors even prescribe it for chronic pain and assisting the body in healing itself. If you’re not flexible and strong, just sitting at your desk becomes a major struggle, and one hour of volleyball turns into one week of pain.
Then, there’s the mental stretching. Yoga helps us expand our minds by quieting it for better focus and life choices. If you can learn to act from clarity, rather than react without clear thinking, binge eating and drama in your relationships might be a thing of the past, too. If we can be mentally strong and flexible, we might be better able to handle life’s toughest challenges, especially when they take us by surprise.
Here are three yoga moves from my book, Happy-Go-Yoga.
Stretch Your Breath – “Brush and Breathe”
- Benefits: Helps lengthen the breath, creating more calm, clarity and space in your mind to think clearly; oxygenates your body to distribute energy efficiently
- How To: Inhale and count to four smoothly. Exhale and do the same. You might practice this while you brush your teeth (a morning/evening meditation)!
Stretch Your Chest – “Smartphone Siesta”
- Benefits: Opens up tight chest muscles and counteract overly stretched upper back muscles from slumping over your phone or poor posture at your desk; gives your brain and eyes a break from email, text, and social media to reduce stress
- How To: Sit down in a chair or couch with a back, and interlace your hands behind your head. Lean back, sending your elbows wide but dropping the tops of your shoulders. Breathe!
Stretch Your Legs, Back, and Neck – “V is for Verve”
- Benefits: Lengthens and strengthens your inner and outer legs, stretches cramped back muscles along the spine, relieves neck muscles, and refreshes your mind
- How To: Stand evenly in a wide-legged v-shape, and fold over at your hip crease, reaching for the floor or something under your hands if the floor is far away. Close your eyes, hang your head, and breathe deeply.
Try these right away – anytime, anywhere to feel more flexible and healthy, physically and mentally.