S-T-R-E-T-C-H…  6 Easy Yoga-Style Poses To Make You Limber
 
Yoga-styled classes specially designed for the “inflexible generation” are a big trend at fitness facilities across the country. Why? People realize that to increase the quality and even length of their life, they need to be limber. And yoga’s combination of movement and gentle stretching creates the perfect catalyst for lengthening muscles and realigning the body. So if bending over to tie a shoe or reaching behind you to grab something from the backseat of your car seem like you need to accomplish a major feat of flexibility, you could use a little limbering up.
 
Yoga will make you more flexible. Period. But frequency is the key. An occasional class may result in relaxation and slightly achy newly-worked muscles, but you won't gain long-term flexibility. And these stretches can be done by almost everyone. Arthritis organizations, for example, endorse yoga to help arthritic patients build strength, improve balance and reduce stiff joints because it increases range of motion. This doesn’t mean you need to twist yourself into uncomfortable or complicated poses, or push yourself beyond what feels good.
 
Here are 6 EASY YOGA POSES FOR THE INFLEXIBLE that offer huge benefits — if you do them regularly:
 
1. CHILD’S POSE
Have you been slouching a lot? Or getting neck and upper back/shoulder pain when you use the computer? This pose relieves upper chest tightness and realigns your shoulders and neck into their proper position. Rest in this pose for a few minutes.

Instructions: Start by sitting on your knees. Relax your feet so the tops of your feet are touching the floor. Spread your knees apart, and slowly lower your chest so that it and your stomach rest between your legs. Stretch your arms straight out in front of you on the floor and hold. This should not feel taxing or uncomfortable. If it is, adjust your feet and/or  knees to be closer or further apart, and begin with bent arms rather than straight ones.
 
2. COW FACE POSE
 
Many of us are imbalanced on our upper right and left sides due to improper posture. This stretch helps to release arm muscles, open shoulders, chest and hips. Do it slowly, deep breathing during it, and modify it if you currently can’t reach as far as you would like to. You’ll improve with practice.
 
Instructions: Begin sitting tall on the floor. Inhale, and lift your right arm straight up, then bend the elbow, and reach it behind you (as if you were patting yourself on the back). Exhale as you reach your arm behind and try to work your hand down your back. Now reach your left hand around your lower back, consciously breathing in and out. Try to clasp the fingertips from both hands together (or as close as you can). If you can’t grab your fingertips, use a small towel or scarf, or even grab hold of your shirt to pull hands closer together. Keep your head and neck straight, not tucked. An advanced position is to sit with one leg crossed over the other so that knees are almost stacked on top of one other while doing this pose, which stretches hip and leg muscles, too.
 
3. DOWNWARD FACING DOG
 
This well-known traditional pose stretches the back, hamstrings (back of legs) and shoulders, and opens the chest. It also improves balance and builds strength in your upper body.
 
Instructions: Start on all fours (hands and knees), with knees directly below hips and hands directly below and slightly forward in front of shoulders. Spread your fingertips for support, and turn your feet so they are facing forward. Take a deep breath in, and then exhale as you lift your knees away from the floor to try to straighten them, lifting your tailbone toward the ceiling. Keep your arms straight. Your feet and hands should be as far apart as you require. Lower your chest slightly so your shoulders are not hunched while lifting hips up. Keep your head between your arms and your neck relaxed. If you feel balanced, try to press your heels toward the floor (which naturally lift up as you raise your hips) to stretch the back of your legs. You can make this pose easier by increasing the distance between your two feet, and bending your knees slightly, still keeping the spine long, but supporting some of your body weight with your legs.
 
4. CAT-COW POSE
 
This easy pose is done slowly to release a tense spine, back and neck, lengthening them. It also reduces stiffness by loosening your joints.
 
Instructions: Start on all-fours (hands and knees) with your back flat like you’re making a table. Your knees should be directly below your hips and your straight arms should have wrists, elbows and shoulders directly inline. Keep your head aligned, not tucked under, and keep eyes looking at the floor. As you inhale, lift your chest up toward the ceiling, arching your back slightly to allow your stomach to lower toward the floor. Lift your head and look forward. Feel your chest open. Exhale and come back to the beginning position. Now inhale as you begin to create the opposite shape, rounding your back and spine so they arch toward the ceiling. Exhale lowering your head toward the floor. Repeat both movements.
 
5. COBBLER POSE
 
This pose opens your hips and stretches your inner thighs. This helps to reduce stiff upper leg muscles that can contribute to low back injuries. It can be done in stages depending on your flexibility.
 
Instructions: Sit on the floor with your knees bent, and falling easily out to your sides. Try to get the soles of your feet to touch each other. If you can do that, gently push your knee area down to get closer to the floor as your feet remain together with soles touching. To increase the stretch, slowly pull your feet in toward your groin with your hands until you feel a stretch in your hips and thighs. Sit like this for a minute. When you have practiced this pose enough to feel comfortable, try leaning your upper body and arms forward to increase the stretch.
 
6. LEGS-UP-THE-WALL INVERSION POSE
If you are on your feet a lot or have low back pain, this easy pose relaxes low back and improves circulation in your limbs, heart and head. It gives feet, ankles and knees a break, relieves neck tension, and gently stretches your back.
 
Instructions: Lie on your back at a wall, and walk your feet up the wall. Your legs should be straight along the wall surface and the end of your back and buttocks should touch the wall. Relax your feet. Place a pillow under your lower back for support, if needed. Stay like this for a couple of minutes. Then slowly walk your feet down the wall, and pull your knees to your chest with your hands. Then repeat, walking your feet back up the wall to straighten legs and then relax feet against the wall.

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