Four Stretches to Improve Flexibility

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Whether you suffer from tight muscles that impair daily activities or you simply want to improve your flexibility, use these stretches to help. Perform this series of stretches once or twice a day (perhaps in the morning when you wake up and before you go to bed at night).

#1: Standing forward fold
This pose is typically done in yoga, primarily throughout various sun salutation series. It is great to stretch the lower back and hamstrings.

How you do it: Begin standing with your feet together. On an inhale raise your arms above your head, lengthening your body. As you exhale, allow your hands to pass through heart center and fold to the floor. Place your hands on either side of your feet and fold your forehead towards your calves. Really follow your breath with this stretch. Every inhale raise your torso slightly and every exhale fold deeper. Hold this pose for five to six breaths, then inhale as you go back up to a standing position.

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#2: Child’s pose
This pose is typically used as a resting pose in yoga practices. It is great to open up the hips as well as stretch the glutes, back, shoulders and obliques.

How you do it: Begin in a table top position. Move your knees to slightly wider than hips-width distance apart and bring your toes to touch. On an exhale sit back onto your calves and feet, resting your forehead on your mat or the floor while stretching your arms out over your head. Try not to let your elbows touch the floor or mat, as this will allow for a deeper stretch throughout the torso and shoulders. If this is too difficult, simply release your arms down by your sides. Hold this pose for two to three minutes, breathing deeply throughout.

#3: Butterfly
This stretch is great to open up your hips and stretch your inner thighs.

How you do it: Begin in a comfortable seated position. Bring the soles of your feet to touch. On an exhale, lower you knees towards your mat or floor as far as is comfortable for you. Follow your breath, lowering your knees closer to the floor on every exhale. Hold this pose for four to five breaths.

#4: Bridge
This pose will open up your hips while stretching your back and shoulders. It is often done in yoga practices in conjunction with wheel pose.

How you do it: Begin by laying on your mat with your arms laying down by your sides. Bend your knees and bring your feet closer to your hands so that your middle fingers can just barely touch your heels. On an inhale, push your torso and pelvis towards the ceiling or sky. Shimmy your shoulders underneath your body, interlacing your fingers. On every inhale push further up, and on the exhales find a pause. Hold this pose for four to five breaths and slowly release to the starting position. Repeat two to three times for maximum benefits.

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