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woman yoga back bendHave you ever looked at someone doing the full splits or touching their toes to the back of their head in a scorpion pose and wished you could do the same?

It is only human nature to feel that way but there is absolutely no reason to be – because you, too, can achieve any pose you desire with consistent practice using the right method.

The common misconception that yoga is only for people who are already flexible is certainly not true. Some people are just naturally flexible while some people need to put in a little extra work and dedication to achieve the same results. 

It is almost instinctive to think that people with increased flexibility have it easy in their yoga journey but that cannot be further from the truth. 

As a matter of fact, a beginner in yoga that is naturally flexible should refrain from rushing into advanced poses just because their body allows them to form those shapes. 

For instance, I spent eight years doing ballet when I was younger, thus I already had the advantage of increased flexibility and balancing when I first started practicing yoga. 

At the beginning of my yoga journey, I tended to push myself too hard to get into poses despite knowing I was lacking the strength in my upper body.

As a result, I would often finish a yoga practice feeling sorer than before and sometimes even in pain.

When I was traveling around India back in 2019, I had the opportunity to learn about anatomy and physiology in a week-long yoga training course in one of the many ashrams in Rishikesh. 

That program made me realize that whilst being flexible is certainly an advantage to my yoga practice, I need to really work on improving my strength to complement that flexibility, build support muscles, and practice safe alignment.

All I wanted to say is that in the yoga world (just as it is in life in general), everyone has their own challenges they are working diligently to overcome, the same way you are trying to conquer inflexibility seeing as you are reading this post!


Why is flexibility important in yoga?

Being flexible is an advantage not just for a yogi but everyone in general because it promotes mobility and joint health that help decrease the chances of back pain, tissue damage, and injuries. 

In addition, increasing your flexibility also comes with mental benefits. In general, flexibility is improved through regular stretching, and doing that releases tension in the body, which ultimately influences and reduces your stress level.


Will doing yoga help in improving flexibility?

Doing yoga is great for improving overall flexibility and strength. The main difference between yoga stretches and other stretches is the former’s emphasis on correct alignment, duration, and variation that highlight both major muscle groups and some lesser-known deep-seated muscles. 

Yoga stretches place attention on the alignment of the body, the attention of the mind, and the awareness of the present.

It is important that each pose is done correctly to maximize benefits and minimize risks. Being mindful of the way your body moves to stay focused on the present moment is another reason why I love doing yoga stretches to improve my flexibility and reduce anxiety.


How often should you practice yoga to get flexible?

As with everything else in life, the key to acquiring positive results is consistency and focus. There is no better time to start your practice than now as the sooner you start, the sooner you will see improvement.

However, apart from your yoga practice, your daily habits and other activities you do can influence your level of flexibility too (For instance, sitting a lot gives you a tight hamstring).

In short, 2-3 half-hour sessions each week is a good place to start. This is not too much for your muscles to get over stretched but regular enough to give consistent improvement. 


How to start yoga for flexibility?

If you’re ready to improve your flexibility, I have put together a list of the top 12 beginner yoga poses to improve flexibility. To make it simpler for you, I categorized them into four groups, namely Shoulders & Neck, Back, Hips, and Hamstrings.


Yoga poses for shoulders & neck flexibility

Cow Face Pose (Gomukhasana)

To do this pose:

  1. In a comfortable seated position, allow your spine to lengthen whilst opening your chest.
  2. Extend your left arm overhead and bend your elbow to point your fingers down along the spine.
  3. Use your right hand to gently draw your left elbow over to the right and slightly downwards if possible.
  4. For more of a challenge, bend your right arm upward along your spine to clasp your left hand.
  5. Remain in this pose for at least 30 seconds before repeating with another arm.

Eagle Arms Pose (Garurasana)

To do this pose:

  1. Stretch your arms straight forward and parallel to the floor.
  2. Bring your arms in towards each other and place your right arm behind your left arm, resting your right elbow on the inside of your left elbow.
  3. Try your best to wrap your left arm as much as you can around your right arm to touch the inside of your right hand. 
  4. Actively bring your arms up to shoulder level.

Modification: If your hands can’t touch each other, simply grab your wrist or forearm instead so you can feel the stretch.


plow pose yoga

Plow Pose (Halasana)

(People with neck pain, digestion, or blood pressure concerns should avoid doing this pose)

To do this pose:

  1. Lie on your back with your arms next to your body.
  2. Press your palms into the ground and raise your legs straight up to 90 degrees.
  3. Gently bring your legs over your head and lower them to the ground.
  4. Position your hands on the lower back for additional support.
  5. Keep breathing in this position for 30 seconds and release by rolling your spine back down to the ground.

Modification: Rest your feet on the seat of a chair or a stack of cushions if they struggle to reach the ground.


Yoga poses for back flexibility

Cat and Cow pose (Marjariasana & Bitilasana)

To do this pose:

  1. Start on all fours with your toes untucked and wrists under your shoulders.
  2. Inhale to drop your belly, arch your spine, and look up to the ceiling (this is Cow pose).
  3. Exhale to round your spine and drop your head to look at the ground (this is Cat pose).
  4. Go through this flow a few times to release the tension in your back. 

Modification: If your knee hurts while doing this pose, try doing it in a seated position.


woman yoga camel pose

Camel pose (Ustrasana)

To do this pose:

  1. Kneel on the floor with knees hip-distance apart.
  2. Make sure your thighs are straight and at 90 degrees to the floor.
  3. Slowly lean back by arching inwards to hold the heels with your hand.
  4. Release to initial position on an exhalation.

Modification: Place yoga blocks by your feet at the right height for you to create a milder backbend. Keep your hands on your lower back for extra support. 


reclined spinal twist

Reclined Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)

To do this pose:

  1. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet on the ground.
  2. Bring your knees toward your chest and place your right hand on the outside of your left thigh.
  3. Slowly begin to drop your legs all the way over to the right side.
  4. Keep both shoulders on the ground to prevent your upper body from turning to the right.
  5. Stretch your left arm out straight and keep your gaze on the left fingers.
  6. Slowly come back to the center and repeat on the other side.


Yoga poses for hips flexibility

Garland pose (Malasana)

To do this pose:

  1. Stand with your feet about mat’s width apart
  2. Turn your toes outward and bend your knees to get into a deep squatting position.
  3. Bring your elbows to the insides of your knees and place your palms together in front of your chest.
  4. Gently push the knees apart with your elbows.


pigeon pose yoga

Pigeon pose (Kapotasana)

To do this pose:

  1. From Downward Facing Dog, bring your right leg to the top of the mat as if you are going to step into a lunge
  2. Slide your right knee to the back of your right wrist whilst keeping the right foot flexed to protect your knee.
  3. Untuck your back toes and rest your left leg on the ground.
  4. Place your hands on either side of your legs and make sure weight is evenly distributed between both hips.
  5. Stay here and keep breathing or slowly fold forward for a deeper stretch.

Modification: Place a yoga block underneath the hip where your leg is bent.


Wide-angle seated forward bend (Upavistha Konasana)

To do this pose:

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs spread wide and extend your arms overhead.
  2. Hinge at your hips to fold forward while slowly walk your hands to the front of the mat.

Yoga poses for hamstrings flexibility

Reclined hand to big toe pose (Supta Padangusthasana)

To do this pose:

  1. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet on the ground.
  2. Bring your right knee in towards your chest by gripping around the big toe.
  3. Straighten the right leg up toward the ceiling as much as possible.
  4. Optional to straighten the leg on the ground and activate both feet by either flexing or pointing. 
  5. Keep your hip flat down on the mat.
  6. Hold in this position for 30 seconds and repeat with another leg. 

Modification: Use a yoga strap or a belt around the instep of the lifted leg. 


yoga pyramid pose

Pyramid pose (Parsvottanasana)

To do this pose:

  1. Start with your feet together and step your left foot about a leg’s distance behind you (while still keeping both heels grounded and both legs straight).
  2. Fold your upper body down toward your thigh on an exhale. 
  3. Either clasp your hands behind your back for a shoulder stretch or place your palms on either side of your front foot. 
  4. Keep breathing in this position to release all of the tension and tightness.
  5. Return to the initial position and repeat on the other side.
seated forward fold yoga

Straight Legged Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)

To do this pose:

  1. Start in a seated position with your legs stretched forward.
  2. Lift your arms up overhead and slowly fold from the waist over your legs.
  3. Stretch your fingers to reach for your toes, ankles, or shins while keeping the back straight.

Modification: For those with really tight hamstrings, wrap a yoga strap or a belt around your feet and grab onto it to get a deeper stretch.



woman yoga back bendYoga is a holistic form of exercise suitable for anybody – not discriminating by age, size, gender, or on this topic – level of bendiness. In fact, flexibility is one of the main elements to maintaining good physical health. 

Our body may lose flexibility over time due to numerous factors, including age, lifestyle, stress, or improper postures. Therefore, keep practicing these yoga stretches to improve your flexibility and build muscle strength. 

Don’t forget to check out this article if you are looking for yoga poses that can help weight loss.


What do you think?

Do you like the yoga poses we recommended for improving flexibility? Let us know in the comment section below.


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