Many yoga movements and poses gently stretch various muscle groups. One special benefit of yoga is that, across a session, all areas of the body will become involved. Many other forms of exercise only focus on one part of the body. This has the inherent risk of overworking that part, leading to injuries and strains. Yoga stretches vary in difficulty, some are suited to beginners whilst others require the concentration and stamina that will come from more practice in yoga. Here are a few basic stretching exercises within yoga.
Most preparatory movements within yoga are stretches designed to warm up the muscle groups. Because muscles are elastic, it is important to begin with more gentle stretches – if a muscle is stretched too far too quickly, this can result in injury, but gently increasing the level of stretch results in improved flexibility. Some preparatory stretches can be carried out as follows:
– Place both arms together, straight out in front of you. Gently bend down, whilst keeping the arms straight and touch the floor. Extend up again, reaching the hands above the head, keeping arms straight at all times. This movement helps to loosen the back and encourage flexibility.
– Reach both arms straight out at your sides. Swivelling at the hip, reach down one hand at a time to touch the ground, whilst keeping the arms straight. This exercise encourages flexibility in the muscles and joints of the shoulders.
– In the same manner as the previous movement, extend the arms and keep them straight. Keep the arms straight and the hips facing forwards, but twist the upper part of the body until looking behind. Do this to the right and the left and repeat a few times in each direction. This movement also helps to encourage flexibility in the back.
– Standing with hands on the hips, twist the upper part of the body to the left and to the right, whilst keeping the head and hips facing forwards. This movement helps to loosen the joints in the hips and also encourages flexibility in the back.
Many yoga poses are stretches, which are ideally suited to sports men and women, or to anybody keen to improve their flexibility. Here are some examples of these kinds of poses:
With feet and legs together, hold the body in a squatting position. This can help to encourage flexibility in the hamstring muscles and to rebalance the body. When this exercise is completed for weight-loss a hold time of over 1 minute is recommended.
Lie flat on the ground, facing upwards with legs together and straight. Place pillows behind the upper back and shoulders, so the torso is positioned at a slight upwards angle (about 45 degrees). This position helps to stretch the muscles around the spine and gently encourage flexibility in the abdominal muscles.
Again, place pillows on the ground. Lie across them on the side, with legs straight and arms straight above the head. Repeat on the other side of the body. This position gently stretches the muscles in the shoulder and neck, as well as the muscle groups around the rib cage.