Your reason for exercise may be to get fitter or to maintain a healthy lifestyle. You may want to perform better at sports or raise your training level. Improving your flexibility benefits all your training and sporting activities. Improved flexibility is a key part of maintaining your health and avoiding injury. Also as you age, improved flexibility can make a huge difference in remaining active. So what is the best yoga for flexibility? What are the best poses for improving flexibility for men?
All yoga poses include some form of stretching which is the best way to improve flexibility. You also don’t have to be already flexible to do yoga. In fact, the opposite is true: doing yoga regularly is a sure way to become more flexible.
What is the Best Yoga for Flexibility?
All yoga styles involve a lot of stretching which helps in improving your flexibility. Poses targeting the hamstrings, hips and shoulders are the most beneficial for men. These are also areas that are especially tight for a lot of men due to sitting for long periods. Those muscles also get tight from other types of exercise, like cycling and running.
Yoga is a more effective way to increase flexibility compared to static stretches. Yoga aligns with the Active-Isolated Technique. It involves contracting one muscle group while stretching the other. This triggers a muscular reflex that increases your range of motion. The result is a deeper stretch.
Stretching through yoga involves the whole body. Yoga includes joints that are never really on the ‘radar screen’ let alone exercised. Training the entire body together develops symmetry and unity. Improving your flexibility comes from opposing muscle groups work together. Finally you don’t have to be already flexible to do yoga. In fact, the opposite is true: doing yoga regularly is a sure way to become more flexible.
Yoga for hamstrings
Hamstrings is an area where flexibility is poor for many men. This can be the case even if you have been quite active with training or playing sports. Tight hamstrings can lead to all kinds of problems, including lower back problems. They can limit your form and performance in many sports. Furthermore tight hamstrings are prone to tearing when forced outside of their capabilities. Doing standing forward bend and reclined big toe poses are the best yoga for flexibility when targeting hamstrings.
Standing Forward Bend – Uttanasana
A standing forward bend is a simple way to stretch your hamstrings. It is a calming posture that lengthens the hamstrings and activates the inner legs. Maintain a bend or micro-bend in the knees to put the emphasis on the quads and take pressure off the knees. Try to keep your hips over your ankles; most people have a tendency to let their hips creep too far back. A nice variation is to take hold of opposite elbows and let your torso hang. Tip: Use a yoga block for added height if hamstrings are really tight.
Reclined Big Toe Pose – Supta Padangustasana
Doing this pose on the floor allows you to stretch your hamstrings safely. Also there will be no stress on your vertebrae. Start with your knee bent and then straighten it out. Engage the inner thighs and flex the foot so that the sole of the foot faces the ceiling. The leg that’s not being stretched should be straight and in contact with the floor. Tip: If you have very tight hamstrings use a yoga strap around your raised foot. This makes this pose accessible to even those with the tightest hamstrings. (You can also use a regular old belt is you don’t have a strap handy).
Yoga for hips
You will be amazed how many muscles are packed into the hip area! You will notice your hip flexors in yoga as they stabilise your lower body. Flexible hip flexors will improve the range of movement of your legs. When stretching the hip flexors you also target the psoas and iliacus. Deep hip flexor poses are the best yoga for flexibility as they aid in improving your flexibility in the whole body.
Eye of the Needle – Sucirandhrasana
This is a great pose for tight hips as it’s very customisable. You do it lying on your back which makes it easier to control the intensity. Start by crossing one ankle onto the opposite thigh. This might be enough for some people. If you want to go further, lift the bottom leg off the ground incrementally. Stop when you find the place where you feel a good stretch but you’re not in pain. To deepen the stretch, draw the right knee closer to your chest. Use your left elbow to gently nudge your left knee away from your body.
Cobbler’s Pose – Baddha Konasana
A good deep stretch that almost anyone can do, even if it takes a few props to get there! In cobbler’s pose, gravity does the hip opening work for you. so it does require to stay in the pose for a few minutes at a time. Sit erect. Stretch your legs out. Breathe out, and bend your knees as you pull your heels towards your pelvis. Press the soles of your feet close together, and let your knees drop to the sides. Keep moving your heels towards the “sits” bones. Hold the big toe of each foot with first two fingers and thumb. Your pelvis should be in a neutral position and parallel to the floor. Your shoulder blades should be in a straight line with your back.
Tip: Sitting up on a folded blanket can help because it raises the hips above the knees. Placing a yoga block under each knee for support is also an option. Make sure you lower the blocks incrementally over time so that you see your progress.
Yoga for Shoulders
The shoulders are another area where improving flexibility for a lot of men is required. Activities like excessive driving and sitting and working at a computer cause tightness in shoulders. To combat this you should be looking to take breaks from these activities as much as possible. Tightness in the shoulders can also be a result of having a lot of anxiety or stress in your life. The saying “He carries the weight of the world on his shoulders” rings very true.
Eagle Pose – Garudasana
Eagle stretches the hips, thighs, shoulders and upper back. It will loosen them and make them more flexible. It builds balance, calm, focus, and concentration. Learning to open the back torso is beneficial for advanced inverted yoga poses such as handstands and headstands. Breathing evenly and gazing at a distance of about 4 or 5 feet away will help you in maintaining balance. Lifting the hands and arms toward the ceiling will increase the stretch in the arms and shoulders. This pose can be difficult for a lot of men so check out this video for some options and variations.
Cow Face Pose – Gomukhasana
This pose will gives a deep stretch in the hips, ankles, thighs, shoulders, chest, deltoid and triceps! Don’t worry if you can’t clasp your hands behind your back here. It’s really not about that so don’t over exert yourself. Use anything handy (belt, strap, towel, t-shirt) to make up the distance between the hands. Try to sit in pose for several minutes while sending your breath into any areas of tightness you feel. It is a difficult pose to explain so please watch this clip for more detailed instructions.
We all know we should stretch often as part of a general fitness regime. Including yoga as another form of exercise is a great aid in improving your flexibility. Regular yoga will loosen tight muscles, which tend to trap lactic acid. This is a waste product that accumulates in the muscle cells during other hard training sessions. For men the best yoga for flexibility should focus on poses targeting hamstrings, hips and shoulders.
We would love to know if these yoga poses are helping in improving your flexibility and allowed you to perform better in sports. Male-wellness appreciates your comments, feedback and questions on this topic or any others.
I am an easy going and sociable adventurer. My main hustle is helping run Australia’s number one community marketplace. I am an inflexible Yogi, functional fitness warrior and beginner boxer. I am huge Wire fan and enjoy watching well written film or TV. Woodwork is my latest passion and dream of having my own workshop or just a small toolshed! Currently listening to my favourite community radio station while making dovetail joints.