If you consider yourself to be a physically inflexible person, the thought of doing yoga can be daunting. Wondering how in the world you are going to do any of the yoga poses that you typically see? Like forward folds where you bend and touch your toes. This is no cause for concern, though, as there are plenty of poses that you can do as an inflexible beginner.
There are many great yoga poses for inflexible beginners. These include forward fold, child's pose and downward facing dog. Many poses require little flexibility, and they help inflexible beginners increase their flexibility. Using yoga props such as blocks or straps are great aids for all yogi's.
The great news is that there are plenty of poses you can do as a beginner that require little to no flexibility. So if you want to hear all about how you can go from being an inflexible beginner to a flexible yogi, keep reading. We include all you need to know about how yoga can help improve flexibility and many different poses that you can do.
Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
One of the key skills of doing yoga poses is flexibility, although this does not mean that you can't do the poses if you are inflexible. It is called a yoga practice for a reason because you are always practising to improve.
This pose is a great starting point for anyone looking to build flexibility in their legs and back. The key is to let yourself gradually get closer and closer to the ground. Every time you practice this pose, you will find yourself closer to touching your toes and then closer to touching the ground.
Remember to keep your spine lengthened and bend your knees if needed to avoid rounding your back. You can begin by placing your hands on your thighs, then your shins, feet, and the ground as you improve your flexibility.
Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
This common pose may look easy, but in fact, it requires a decent amount of flexibility to do in its full form. However, anyone at any level can do this pose, and that is why you will normally do it in between many poses in a yoga session.
When first doing this pose, keep in mind that it is more important to keep your back lengthened and straight. It is less important to keep your legs straight, so if needed, bend your knees slightly to keep your back from rounding. You will also notice that you will be on your tippy-toes for this pose. With practice and an increase in flexibility, you will be able to do this pose with your feet flat to the ground.
Cat-Cow Pose (Marjaiasana)
If you need a pose that can stretch out your back and help increase your spine's range of motion, then this is the one. No matter what level you are at, you can easily do this pose, and it will feel amazing when you do this. You may add this pose to your daily routine.
This pose is most effective when you merge your breath with the movement in the pose. Move slowly and consistently throughout the pose, inhale as you arch and exhale as you round. Focus on keeping length in your neck and avoid rounding your shoulders. Keep your knees hip width distance apart. A good tip for beginners is to hold a yoga block between your legs. Finally remember to keep your core and thighs engaged for the whole pose.
Plank Pose (Kumbhakasana)
This is a pose that you will find yourself coming back to time and time again as you practice yoga. It requires no flexibility, but it does require a fair bit of core and arm strength. However, anyone can do it.
How long you can do it is determined by your strength. Nonetheless, it is a great pose for every beginner to practice, as building these muscles can make achieving other yoga poses much easier.
Remember, the goal here is to make your body as straight as possible and avoid lifting your butt in the air. To make it easier, keep your heels pushing towards the back of the room. If needed, you can also go down onto your forearms or lower your knees to be on the floor while continuing to hold yourself up through your core and arms.
Reclined Butterfly Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
This pose is quite simple, and over time, you will be able to sink into it deeper as you get more flexible. If needed, you can also choose to use props in this pose.
If you have any pain in your knees or groin use lots of props such as cushions under the knees or thighs to elevate them. If you find your lower back is arching a lot you may need to place a bolster along the length of your spine.
This pose is generally safe unless you have a condition where you are not allowed to lie flat. Discuss it with your doctor if you have a hip or knee condition or recent surgery.
Cow Face Pose (Gomukhasana)
This pose is easy to do and helps to open up your shoulders and lengthen your triceps. You may also find it easier to use a yoga strap in this pose to keep your hands as close as possible. To learn more about yoga props such as straps, you can read more in the next section.
To do this pose, you should follow these steps:
- You can begin this pose while sitting on your knees or standing tall. Either way, keep your back straight and your gaze ahead of you.
- Lift your right hand to the sky, and bend it fully, so your hand drops around your head and touches your back.
- Then, reach your left hand around the side of your back with the back of your hand touching your back. Here, you can try to clasp your hands together. If they don't touch, try using a strap if you have one available.
- Hold this for 30 seconds, then switch so your left hand comes from above, and your right-hand reaches around the side.
Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
While this pose does require some balance, you can do it no matter how flexible you are. It is quite simple to do, and if you are worried about balance being an issue, choose to do this pose near a wall or a chair, so you can use it for extra support. To help with your balance, keep your eyes focused on something in the room.
To do this pose, you should follow these steps:
- Start in the mountain pose or just standing straight with your feet spread out almost shoulder-width apart.
- Raise your right knee in front of you, so your thigh is parallel to the ground.
- With or without the assistance of your hand, grab your right foot and place it either on your shin or inner thigh. Avoid placing the foot directly on your knee. The higher up the foot, the more difficult the pose.
- To keep yourself balanced, keep your weight pushing onto the ball of your foot, and squeeze your foot into your shin or thigh. Keep your gaze focused on a fixed place in front of you.
- Bring your hands to a prayer position. To increase the difficulty, you can raise your hands over your head and lift your gaze.
- Hold for a few full breaths, then repeat on your left leg.
Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
The chair pose is great for building strength in your legs. While it requires no flexibility to do, it can help build flexibility and balance that can help you sink lower into this pose. Chair pose is a relatively easy pose to learn for all abilities.
Primarily a lower body and core exercise which you will perform in most yoga workouts. You should focus on keeping your abs nice and tight and your spine should stay in straight line throughout the pose. It is also pose where you have options in increasing or decreasing the intensity.
Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
This pose does not require much flexibility but does require you to move your arms into a position they may not be able to at first. Nonetheless, it is fairly simple to do and gives you a full upper-body stretch. If you do not have the best balance, you can choose to do this pose with a chair nearby.
To do this pose, you should follow these steps:
- Start by standing up straight with your arms extended straight out in front of you.
- Bring your right arm underneath your left arm, essentially hooking it under. Lift your hands together while in this position.
- Bend slightly in your knees, bringing your right leg hooked over your left. More advanced yogis may wrap the foot all the way around the left leg.
- Keeping your palms together, hold this pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Then, repeat on the other side.
Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)
This pose is quite simple to do and is great for inflexible beginners looking to improve the flexibility in their legs and hamstrings. They will also improve their mobility in their shoulders and hips. It also provides you with a much needed deep side stretch.
Make sure you are using your core strength and not relaxing your hand on the floor and using that to bear weight. Focus on extending up and using your core strength to hold yourself up. If you get lazy in the pose your hips will shift back and you rest your hand on the shin. You also want to make sure your torso is facing towards the side and not to the ground. To do this roll back your shoulder, extend your arm and look up.
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
The cobra pose is fairly easy to do and can be a great way to help bring mobility to your back. It can be done by anyone of any level and can be a good pose to add to your yoga sequence if you are an inflexible beginner.
To do this pose, you should follow these steps:
- Start by laying on your stomach, with your palms flat on the ground beside your chest. Your hands should be under your shoulders, and your elbows should stay tucked close to your chest.
- Keep your gaze looking down at your mat and keep your pubic bone anchored into the ground.
- When you inhale, raise your chest, bringing your shoulders back. Keep your ribs low to the ground and have your elbows at a slightly bent position the entire time.
- Continue gazing at the floor in front of you. Hold this for 3 to 5 breathes.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
This is a pose that is easy for anyone and is a great pose to do when you need a few seconds to catch your breath between more difficult poses. It also gives your back a slight stretch but requires close to no flexibility to do.
You can choose to do these poses in 1 of 2 ways. The first is to keep your knees together, with your thighs touching as you bend over the top of them. The second is to form a "V" with your thighs, keeping your feet touching behind you and your thighs spread apart, keeping one knee on either side of you.
Yoga Props for inflexible Beginners
Yoga props are an intrinsic element of yoga but their role can be misunderstood or worse neglected by many yogi’s. Many assume that yoga props, like blocks and straps are for beginners who are unable to do certain poses. The fact is that anyone doing yoga will benefit from using yoga props. They help to deepen your practice whatever your level or experience.
Yoga blocks come in many different materials such as cork, wood, bamboo, or foam. They can help you achieve certain poses and enhance your yoga practice. Using them, you can help yourself fully complete a yoga pose by most commonly extending your arms.
They can also help your range of motion by bringing the floor closer to you. You are able to maintain proper alignment, and also accessing poses that you may not be flexible enough for. You will also adjust the height by flipping which side you place the yoga block down on. There are three different heights, each of which can help you with various poses.
To use yoga blocks, you can hold them in your hands at any height to help yourself reach the floor in poses such as a forward fold. You can also place them under your knees when doing the butterfly pose to ease some of your muscles' strain. If you have hip issues or lack of mobility in your hips, try using yoga blocks. Any pose that is performed sitting on the floor can be more accessible by sitting on a block, helping to keep your hips open.
You can use them where you see fit and allow them to help you build flexibility over time by adjusting the heights every so often.
Yoga straps are typically made out of a rope-like fabric with buckles to make for easy adjustments. The straps' main purpose is to either make stretching easier or sink deeper into your stretch. Again they allow you to have a better range of motion than you normally would. Most commonly, you will find them used for leg stretches or even during warm-ups.
To use yoga straps, you can choose to either hold them in your hands in poses such as the cow face pose or hook them around your feet in a forward fold. You can also hook them around your feet if they are in the air while lying on your back, pulling your foot from one direction to another to warm up your muscles.
You can use them for how you see fit. For the inflexible yogi they can be immensely helpful in helping you achieve many poses. It is easier to feel the full stretch of the pose and improve your range of motion.
Other great props are bolsters. They are fairly flat pillows, helping you raise the ground and release some pressure from your muscles. If you don't have a bolster, you can opt to fold a thick blanket up instead.
These are great for placing under your back in poses you are laying down, such as the reclined butterfly pose. You can also place them under your legs in a seated forward fold. You can also place it under your head or forehead, if needed, and make the corpse pose (savasana) much more comfortable.
Best Tips for Building Flexibility
The advice we have outlined about using yoga props to aid you are super valuable for the inflexible yogi. There are still some other things that you can do to help you become more flexible. If you add these to your yoga routine, you should see significant flexibility gains.
Always warm-up before you jump into difficult poses
At the beginning of yoga practice, you should always start with some basic poses that require little to no flexibility. This gives your muscles a chance to warm up and prepare themselves to be stretched. If you do Bikram (Hot) yoga, your muscles will warm up much faster. You can use yoga straps to do this.
Save the poses that require the most flexibility for the end of your practice
If you are eager to try some poses that may push your limits a little, save them to the end of your practice. This is when your muscles are completely warmed up and have had the chance to stretch a little. If you do this, you may be surprised at how much more flexible you are at this time.
Take it slow, and do not push yourself too hard.
Nothing can ruin your flexibility progress more than muscle stiffness, pain, or a pulled muscle. Keep in mind that you will have to take it slow. If you feel sharp or shooting pains, ease up or stop the pose you are doing. Also, don't try and do too much in one practice. Give your muscles a break in between, so they have a chance to become more flexible.
Stretch it out
If you don't have time to do a full yoga class one week and work on your flexibility, choose to add a few static stretches or yoga poses into your daily routine. Hold them for about 1-3 minutes each. This will help you continue your progress even if you don't have the time or energy for a full yoga practice.
Use props to improve your flexibility
While using props are a great tool for beginners, allowing them to access poses, they are great for helping you sink deeper into a pose. You can adjust the height of a block or length of a strap to ensure you are getting the most out of a pose. Props such as yoga blocks or straps are great tools that you should utilise throughout your practice.
You no longer have to worry that your lack of flexibility will hinder your ability to do yoga. There are plenty of different poses that you can do as an inflexible beginner, and the best part is that almost of them will make you even more flexible.
By practising poses such as forward folds and downward-facing dogs, you will be able to feel all the benefits that yoga has to offer while improving your flexibility and range of motion. They will allow you to sink deeper into your poses and achieve poses you have only dreamed of achieving.