Do you ever wonder how some people are just so flexible, and you’re, well…not? It can be very intimidating when you’re new to yoga, and you see someone do a full split while you’re sitting there wondering how to even begin to conquer that pose.
So I’ve created a list of the top beginner yoga poses to improve flexibility.
1. Eagle Arms Pose (Garurasana)
Eagle arms provide a great stretch for both shoulders. The pose shown here is a seated variation of Eagle.
You don’t need to have stacked legs if you have tight hips, you can simply sit in a comfortable seated position or stand while just practicing eagle arms.
How to do Eagle Arms:
- Start by standing or sitting, and place your arms in a goal post position, forming 90 degree angles on either side. Make sure your elbows are inline with your shoulders.
- Start to bring your arms in towards each other and place your right arm behind your left arm, so that your right elbow is resting on the inside of your left elbow.
- Now wrap you left arm as much as you can around your right arm, trying to touch the inside of your right hand. If you can’t completely touch it all the way that’s okay.
- Squeeze your arms in towards each other and actively bring them up to shoulder level.
Modification: If you are unable to do eagle arms, that’s okay. Instead of reaching for your hands to touch, simply allow your hand to grab your wrist or forearm, as long as you feel the stretch!
2. Bow (Dhanurasana)
Bow pose stretches the entire front body, and is especially great for those that sit at a desk all day and tend to hunch, as this pulls everything backwards while strengthening your back.
This pose may seem intimidating when first looking at it, but there are is a simple tool you can use to do it properly and safely that I’m going to show you so you can obtain the amazing benefits.
How to do Bow Pose:
- Start on your stomach with your hands along your sides with palms facing up. Bend your knees and bring your heels in as close as you can to your butt.
- Reach back with your hands and grab onto your ankles.
- If you are unable to reach back with your hands, get a yoga strap (these are the ones I recommend) or if you don’t have one, you can use a sheet or thin towel.
- On your next inhale, slowly lift your thighs off the floor and pull your heels away from your butt. This will naturally lift your chest and pull back your shoulders.
Modification: If you’re using a strap, Instead of reaching back with your hands, wrap the yoga strap around your ankles and use your hands to grip the strap while pulling back on it.
- Make sure your knees and legs stay hip width distance apart, not wider, for the duration of this pose.
- Make sure to keep your shoulders away from your ears and your head in neutral position.
- Repeat on the other side by switching the arm that is underneath.
3. Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Although Bridge Pose is widely known for the positive effects it has on treating back pain, it is actually an amazing pose for your shoulders as well!
To get a deeper stretch in this pose, instead of keeping your arms and hands flat on the ground, you can clasp your hands together and pull your shoulder blades in for the duration of the pose. Just make sure to keep your shoulders on the ground.
This is a bit of a more advanced variation so if you’re not ready for that yet, simply keeping your hands on the ground will do a great job at opening your shoulders as well!
How to do Bridge Pose:
- To do bridge, lay on the ground with knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Make sure they are inner hip width distance apart.
- Lift up just enough and shimmy your shoulder blades underneath you. Bring your feet in as much as you can so your fingertips can touch your heels.
- Keep your arms and hands at your sides flat on the ground. On your next inhale, slowly lift up through your pelvis, keeping grounded feet and hands. Make a conscious effort to keep the tops of your shoulders on the ground.
- Lift with your hips throughout the pose as you actively either clasp your hands or press them towards the floor.
Modification: If your shoulders are too tight to bring your hands together, feel free to leave them pressed into the mat, or grab a yoga strap and use it to gradually bring your arms together by gripping the strap.
4. Cobra (Bhujangasana)
Cobra Pose is a mild backbend that is perfect for beginners trying to improve their shoulder flexibility and open up their chest.
It’s important to make sure you do not overdo the backbend, as doing so could strain your back.
How to do Cobra Pose:
- Start belly down on the floor, with forehead facing down and hands spread underneath your shoulders. Hug your arms into your sides.
- Your legs should be spread out behind you, inner hip width distance apart and the tops of your feet flat on the ground.
- Take a deep breath, then on your next exhale, push up with your hands while lifting through your chest.
- Make sure to push through your pelvis, legs and feet to keep them grounded and distribute the backbend evenly.
Modification: If you feel tension in your back while doing this pose, spread your legs out wider. You do not need to come into full cobra- if you feel a stretch in Baby Cobra, stay there.
5. Fish (Matsyasana)
Fish pose is used as a counter pose for inversions such as Shoulder Stand and Plow Pose because of how great it is at stretching the shoulders.
How to do Fish Pose:
- Start on your back with legs flat on the floor and hands by your sides.
- Slightly lift your pelvis and slide your hands underneath your butt.
- On your next exhale, press your forearms into the floor and pull your scapulas into your back while lifting your head and torso off of the floor.
- You can make the backbend as mild as is comfortable for you, but make sure to keep your forearms planted to get the shoulder stretch.
Modification: Feel free to place a block underneath your back for extra support. In this case, you would spread your arms out wide instead of keeping them by your sides.