Stretches to improve flexibility

Having loose and flexible muscles can help improve our mobility and make our workouts and movement of any kind safer and more effective. Stretching is an integral part of any workout regimen, as it helps protect the body against injury and strain. Prioritizing stretching also helps to optimize our movement and range of mobility as we age, preventing tightness and stiffness in the muscles and joints. Increasing flexibility can take time and patience, as loosening the muscles is a gradual process. With practice, nearly everyone can do some variation of the splits. Practice the following stretches regularly to improve your flexibility and keep your body safe and healthy. 

 

Forward fold

Start standing with your feet hips width apart. Take a deep breath in and on an exhale, fold over your legs. Keep a gentle bend in the knees and allow the head and neck to hang heavy. You can let your arms heavy to the floor or grab opposite elbows to add extra weight to the stretch. Hold for 30-60 seconds. 

 

Lunge 

Place your right foot in between your hands and extend your left leg behind you, tucking the toes under and engaging your quads. Keep the front leg bent at a 90 degree angle, stretching into the hip. Keep your hands planted on the ground surrounding either side of your front foot, or place them on the right knee. Hold for around 30 seconds and then switch sides. 

 

Reverse prayer 

Place both arms behind the back. You can grab opposite elbows, or if your range of mobility allows for it, place both palms together behind your back between the shoulder blades. Press the palms together as you keep a long neutral spine, stretching into the shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds to a minute. 

 

Figure four 

Lie down on your back. Bring both knees into the chest and cross your right ankle above your left knee. Flex both your right and left feet and reach through to grab your right thigh. Encourage your thigh closer to your body with your hands to stretch out through your right hip. Hold for 20 seconds and switch sides. 

 

Quad stretch 

From a standing position, bring your right foot into your right glute and grab the foot with the right hand. Encourage your foot toward the glute with your hand and hold for 30 seconds before switching sides. 

 

Butterfly 

From a seat, bring the souls of your feet together and knees out wide. Keep a long spine as you fold over your legs, stretching the inside of the hips here. Hold and breathe for 30 seconds. 

 

Sphinx 

Lie flat on your stomach and place your elbows underneath your shoulders. Support your body by keeping your forearms firmly planted on the mat beneath you. Energetically drag your elbows back toward the body as you open up through the chest. Hold for five breaths. 

 

Half Splits

Come onto your knees and extend your right foot in front of you, planting your heel on the floor as you flex your toes toward your face. Keep a long spine as you hinge from the hips and fold over the extended leg. Hold and breathe for up to 20 seconds before switching sides.

 

Shoulder stretch 

Cross your right arm over your chest at shoulder height, grabbing your right upper arm with your left hand, encouraging a shoulder stretch. Hold for around a minute before switching sides and repeating on the left.

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