How To Improve Flexibility (+9 Best Flexibility Exercises)

 

Written by: Shelby Torrese - Apr. 27, 2020

flexibility exercises  

As a yoga teacher, people are constantly asking me about flexibility. Everyone wants to see me touch my toes, and as if they just watched me transform into a unicorn, they beg me to share my secrets. There isn’t one magical move you can do to become flexible, though. There are, however, a ton of effective flexibility exercises and stretches for flexibility. They only take a few minutes each day, so if you’re serious about learning how to improve flexibility it’s really about commitment.

Tips For Improving Flexibility


Before we hop into the specific stretches for flexibility, let’s talk about 3 simple ways you can improve your flexibility without breaking a sweat. 

1. Massage & foam rolling


Disclaimer: if you are super tight, you may indeed break a sweat during a good foam rolling sesh. 😂

Think of our body as having pipes. When we’re stiff or tight, you could say the pipes are backed up. When we’re flexible, it’s safe to say the pipes are unclogged and freely flowing. This analogy is how our lymphatic system works, which regulates all of our body’s fluids. When we get a massage or take the time to foam roll, we’re lubricating and encouraging healthy movement of the lymph system. [2] These movements help “soften” the pipes and allow for a greater range of motion, or increased flexibility! When I have first-time clients who are SUPER tight asking how to improve flexibility, I always start them out with a deep tissue massage.

flexibility exercises for moms

2. Hydrate! 


If you haven’t made drinking water a daily priority and you’re serious about learning how to improve flexibility, it is absolutely time to start! Not sure how? Be sure to drink AT LEAST half your body weight in ounces of water. For example, if you are 150 pounds, you should be drinking at least 75 oz. of water per day. Here’s why: Water is essential for just about every single function in the human body, including mobility. [4] When we’re dehydrated, our bodies are less effective at removing toxins from the body. This can lead to the above “backed up pipes” I mentioned. Especially on days you perform any stretches for flexibility, hydration is key!

3. Supplement with collagen for support


Keeping with the pipes analogy, collagen helps lubricate our joints. When we have stiff joints, we experience cracking and popping. When we have healthy, “lubricated” joints, we can move more freely and express our flexibility. You could do all the flexibility exercises in the world, but if you lack collagen, you’re missing out big time on how to improve flexibility. You may be wondering how in the world you increase your collagen supply. Easy! Collagen supplements. My go-to recommendation for clients is SkinnyFit Super Youth Unflavored Collagen Peptides. It’s completely odorless and flavorless making it extremely versatile! It’s easy to add into smoothies, juices, and you can even cook and bake with it! If you’re more of an on-the-go person, Super Youth also comes in a variety of delicious flavors that can be added directly into water. However you take it, collagen is an amazing and effective supplement when you’re looking for how to improve flexibility.

collagen for flexibility

9 Best Flexibility Exercises


I know some of these flexibility exercises will just seem like cool party
tricks, but being nimble is actually super important for our joints and muscles. Maintaining flexibility and mobility in the body can help to decrease joint pain, increase cardiovascular health, and help reduce conditions like lower back pain. [1] If you’ve ever suffered from any back pain, you know what a toll it can take, which is why it’s common for people to say healthy spine, healthy life. Ok, just chiropractors, but there’s truth to it! A happy spine can improve quality of life and even work productivity.

The following flexibility exercises are ones I take every single one of my clients through, regardless of their fitness levels or flexibility. So, no matter if you’re just starting your journey to becoming more flexible or you’re ready to push through to the next level, these flexibility exercises will help you get there! I hope you enjoy them and start to look forward to them each day!

1. Dynamic bridge pose


This is one of the most fun stretches for flexibility because it starts to feel like a dance! 

How to do it

Start lying down on your back with your arms by your side. Plant your feet hips-width distance, and drive your heels down into the ground (without lifting your arches or toes!) Press your hips up toward the sky and squeeze your glutes. As you lift your hips, send your arms overhead. If you can reach your arms to the floor behind you, great! If not, no big deal. Slowly lower your arms back by your side as you lower your hips to the ground. The real trick here is to get your arms to reach their farthest point behind you (or the ground) at the same time that your hips reach their highest point. Be sure to keep your shoulders down and away from your ears, and try not to let your knees flare out wide. If you need a heavy resistance band to keep your legs in place, go for it! Repeat 10-20 times.

flexibility exercises

Why it works

This pose will help stretch your chest, quads and hamstrings!

2. Legs up the wall, straddle version


This is, hands down, my FAVORITE pose out of all of my recommended flexibility exercises. Plus, the easiest. 😏

How to do it

Lay flat on the ground with your legs leaning against a flat wall. Try and get your booty as close to the wall as possible so that your body is in a 90º angle. Once you’re cozied up to the wall, let your legs slide down the wall with your legs as wide as possible without bending your knees. If causing any tension, feel free to bring a microbend to your knees. You can rest your hands by your side or over your chest/belly, and feel free to close your eyes. P.S. I like to wear comfy socks and clothes for this pose, because it’s equally relaxing as it is stretching! Stay up to  about 3-5 minutes.

Why it works

This pose will help stretch your hips, and will aid in lymphatic drainage which is important for maintaining flexibility. [3]

3. Runner’s lunge to half splits


This is one of those flexibility exercises that you either love or hate. Sorry not sorry, because it works! 

How to do it

Start in a runner’s lunge with your right foot forward and your left knee comfortably resting down to the ground, with your left toes tucked (I like to double-fold my yoga mat or rest a towel down to protect my knees). You can have your hands framing your right foot, or you can bring them to blocks. Inhale as you lean forward and then exhale as you sit back into a half-split. A half split is simply reversing your runner’s lunge so that your right leg straightens and you are either resting on your left knee, or as you gain flexibility, you may sit all the way back onto your left heel. Continue slowly shifting back and forth between the two movements 8-12 times, then switch sides. 

Why it works

This pose will help stretch your hamstrings and glutes.

4. Lying quad or dancer pose


If you have tight quads, and prefer to stretch lying down, this will hit #1 on your top stretches for flexibility.

How to do it

Lay on your side with your head resting on your right arm. Kick your left leg behind you and grab the inside of the arch of your right foot with your right hand. (Your hand is in the right place if your right thumb is near your big toe, and not your heel.) Keep your hips squared so that your chest and hips don’t start to roll over to one side. If you need help reaching for your foot, use a strap, resistance band, or even a kitchen towel to get there. Hold for 8 breaths and switch sides. 

Why it works

This pose will help stretch your quads. Trust me, it hurts so good.

5. Prayer squat


Another killer, this is going to be one of those flexibility exercises that you really want to skip, but don’t! It is so good for you and will absolutely help you increase flexibility. 

How to do it

This one can be advanced for some so I’ll offer modifications, don’t worry! Stand about a mat-width distance apart, or just slightly wider than hips-width distance with toes pointed out about 45º. With your weight in your heels, bring your hands in a prayer position at your chest and imagine your chest in a superman stance as you slowly sit back and down. Once you get to  your lowest point, stay there and breathe. If this is not happening for you today, use a small stool or a block or two as a seat. Try to keep your chest tall as you sit, and avoid rounding the shoulders or lifting them up toward your ears. Big breaths are key. Do 10 inhales and exhales and then exit the pose the same way you got into it. 

flexibility exercises

Why it works

This pose will help stretch your hips big time.

6. Hanging forward fold


This one looks so simple, yet seems to be one of the flexibility exercises my tighter students dread. 

How to do it

Simply stand tall and walk your feet hips-width distance. Bring a slight bend to your knees and fold over your thighs. You can bend your knees as much as you need here to release any tightness in the low back. Grab opposite elbows and just hang or slightly sway side to side. Swap the cross of your arms every so often. Let your head hang heavy like a coconut. If giving it a nod yes and no helps you relax, do it. Hang for about 10 breaths. When coming out of the pose, keep the bend in your knees and slowwwwwly roll up to a standing position. Roll your shoulders back and down then reach up over head. Relax.

Why it works

This pose will help stretch your neck, back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.

7. Figure four stretch

This is the most loved pose for anyone needing stretches for flexibility because you’re in total control of how deep you go, and it will absolutely help you with how to improve flexibility!

How to do it

Lay on your back with both feet planted on the ground about hips-width distance apart. Lift, bend, and rotate your right leg so that your right ankle is resting just above your left knee. If you’re already feeling the burn, you can stay right where you are. If you think you can handle a little more, gently press your right hand against your right thigh to encourage a deeper rotation. Hold and relax the shoulders. Take 10 breaths and switch sides.

Why it works

This pose will help stretch your hips, glutes, lower back, and hamstrings.

8. Butterfly


You know the one. The stretch where the teacher asks where we’re all going to fly today. 😂 

How to do it

Take a seat, and bring the soles of your feet together. If this is asking a lot of your body, sit on a block or a rolled up towel to lift your hips. You can sit as high as you need to make this comfortable. (Two blocks, two towels, etc.) Sit tall, roll your shoulders down and back, and hold for 10 breaths. You can make small pulses with your knees if it starts to feel uncomfortable.

Why it works

This pose will help stretch your hips, glutes, back, and thighs.

9. Reclined butterfly pose


Similar to butterfly pose, but on your back! 

How to do it

Come to lying on the floor on your back and bring the soles of your feet together. If there’s any ache or pain in the hips or low back, rest your knees on blocks or rolled up towels or blankets. This will give them a place to rest. Breathe and hold for 30 seconds or up to 2 minutes. 

Why it works

This pose will help stretch your inner thighs, hips, and groin.

flexibility exercises

The Bottom Line 


As I said before, when it comes to how to improve flexibility, commitment is key. These  flexibility exercises are useless unless you are fully invested and commit to doing a few each day. Remember to stay hydrated, supplement with collagen, and I promise these stretches for flexibility will pay off! Slow and steady wins the race here. 😊

 

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