That's how it is in yoga. The places you have the most resistance are actually the ones that are going to be the most liberated - Rodney Yee

If there is one discipline that allows you to work on your physical condition, mindful breathing and mental acuity at the same time, it is yoga. No sport works the joints, the abdominals and the body's alignment quite as thoroughly or effectively.

In short, the practice of yoga is ideal for putting your whole body to work while systematically keeping your mind clear.

This is the reason why, according to multiple studies worldwide, ever more people are taking advantage of the benefits of yoga to take care of and maintain their body. Because even if you feel maxed-out, yoga allows you to surpass yourself, to go beyond the limits of what you thought you were capable of.

Yoga's first, most obvious tack is stretching - and thus, building flexibility.

Most yoga asanas (poses) allow you to stretch and condition your inner tissues smoothly. Over the course of your sessions, whether you are a beginner or far more advanced, you'll find yourself better able to relax properly - both to adopt the more complex poses your yoga teacher calls out and when you finally fall in your bed.

Who has never dreamed of being able to sleep deeply and restfully? For that matter, who has never wanted to expand their body's capabilities? If the superhero culture is anything go by, that's what everybody wants!

Thanks to regular yoga practice and by knowing how to listen to your body, it is possible for you to achieve your best self. Are you interested?

Here is Superprof's selection of ten yoga poses to develop flexibility.

The Cobra Pose: to Become More Supple While Doing Yoga

Among the most iconic of yoga poses, the Cobra is a must for stretching the spine and working the abdominal muscles. Indeed, this position is both good for improving breathing and for making the whole body more flexible.

Let tension seep away while well-being energises and invigorates!

Strong, flexible yogis such as this usually have years invested in the discipline
You may not be this flexible or strong when you start practising yoga but, if your body is capable of it, you will get there. Photo credit: daverose259 on / CC BY

How to adopt the Cobra pose? You only need to position yourself facedown on your yoga mat. Place the palms of your hands under your shoulders and lift your torso until your arms are fully extended. See how easy it is? Be sure that your pelvis stays on the mat; lifting it as well signals the Upward-Facing Dog pose.

To intensify the move, bring your shoulders back and cast your head as far back onto your spine as possible... and there you are, in the Cobra position! Hold for about 30 seconds, before lowering yourself down and repeating the posture.

If you'd like, you can integrate it into a Sun Salutation or a more advanced sequence.

The Cobra is a good fundamental yoga asana for working on flexibility while taking the lead on working of your body. If you're a beginner, this asana is for you!

The Seated Forward Fold: Flexibility Guaranteed!

The Seated Forward Fold seems an uncomplicated setup but requires knowing that not everyone is equally flexible. If you're among the more rigid yogis in your yoga classes, you have an advantage in this case: your condition will allow you to set goals for improved flexibility.

This asana's formal name is Paschimottanasana, literally 'west' or 'back of the body' (paschi), 'uttana' meaning 'intense stretch' or 'straight' + asana. This asana begins by sitting on your mat with your legs straight in front of you. Gently lean forward as far as possible as your hands reach for your feet. Hold the position for between one and three minutes.

Obviously, unless they are amazingly supple, not everyone manages to touch their feet from the first yoga class. The main thing is to feel your muscles working while working towards the goal of reaching them one day.

Above all: do not force yourself, this could harm you. Likewise, avoid bouncing yourself up and down; that is one of the biggest mistakes you can make while practising yoga... or any sport.

The Candle Pose: the Fun Asana that Brings Flexibility

Remember, no matter how deep your posture - what matters is who you are when you get there - Max Strom

Also called Halasana, the Candle is a semi-inverted posture, which makes it possible to tone the muscles that support your spine. You are probably already familiar with this movement; most likely, you posed as a Candle when you were a small child.

Beyond flexibility, this asana's main claim is its revitalizing qualities that are good for certain organs, in particular because of its inverse movement. How do you do it? It's simply a question of lying face-up on your mat, with your legs together and your arms outstretched. And then, bend your knees, bringing your feet close to the buttocks.

Lift your pelvis and put your hands under your hips for support. Now stretch your feet up to the sky, keeping your gaze on your them, so as not to hurt yourself. Hold this pose for about ten breaths.

To return to your initial position, slowly bend your knees towards your face, still supporting your hips with your hands. From there, you may choose to prolong the stretch by letting your feet flow until they rest behind your head or return to your laying-down position.

The Candle's advantage is that it's fun while being effective in working on flexibility. You should also discover other great asanas to include in your stretching routine.

This pigeon pose works many different muscles groups
The Pigeon opens up your hips and chest while working your back and abs. Photo credit: micadew on Visualhunt / CC BY-SA

The Yoga Pigeon: Relax on the Ground

If you want to loosen your hips, the Pigeon is ideal. It doesn't just work your hips, though, it stretches your entire body. Once again, this posture resembles the Cobra, but with a few details that make all the difference to your hip joints.

From the four-legged Table position, push your glutes back while extending one leg. Bring your other knee forward and place your shin diagonally. Your hands should remain planted inasmuch as possible so that, once your legs are properly arranged, you will, in effect, lie on your bent leg.

As you inhale, slowly raise your torso. Allow your arms to follow until you are fully upright and your hands rest on either side of your hips.

Switch legs after about twenty seconds, while still upright. You may then flow forward again to intensify the move but remember: don't force yourself!

The Butterfly Pose to Loosen Your Hips and Legs

The Butterfly, or Baddha Konasana, is a posture which stimulates both the hips and the thighs. It is important, though, to keep your back straight. Otherwise, this asana might not be as effective to build flexibility.

It is a matter of sitting on your mat with your legs outstretched and your arms by your side. Now, bring your feet inward, as if to put yourself in the Lotus pose. You don't need to go that far, though. You only need to put the soles of your feet together, keeping your knees as close as possible to the mat.

This is where flexibility will come into play! Can you feel your adductors opening up? Again, it is important not to bounce your knees or lean back too much, as these could injure you.

Hold a dozen breaths and, beyond building muscle, session after session, you should see the Butterfly's effects on your flexibility.

Downward-Facing Dog: the Essential Yoga Pose

Among the most famous yoga poses, Downward-Facing Dog - or, more simply Down-Dog is a staple in every yoga class from Hatha, through Kundalini and Yin yoga, to Vinyasa and other flow yoga classes. Its focal point is to build strength while developing flexibility.

In case you were wondering what the ultimate yoga asana is, this one works your entire body.

On all fours, make sure your shoulders are directly above the wrists, and your hips are above the knees. Then, push your glutes towards the sky, forming an inverted "V" with your body. This pose works all of your limbs as well as your abs and back muscles, all while helping you become more flexible.

After your Down-Dog, can you feel your neck tension release, your spine stretch, and your body become more fluid?

Calling all yogis: does one have to be flexible to practise yoga?

Cow Face: an Unlikely Name for a Flexibility Asana

Every time you take care of yourself, you take care of all of us - Elena Brower

The name is strange, to say the least. How does one equate lunky bovines to suppleness and grace? Its movements reinforce that idea but Cow Face is nevertheless an excellent asana to relax - among other body parts, the shoulders. From its real name "Gomukhasana", it also works your knees and hips, all while it opens up your chest.

The Cow Face asana - much like the Lotus pose is often adopted by those who practise meditation. You too can flow into this relaxing pose while seated on your mat. You may get into the Lotus position, if possible. More commonly, yogis of all levels stack their knees with their feet pointing back on either side of their body.

If you're not quite that flexible yet, you can use yoga blocks to support yourself.

Now, raise the hand opposite of the highest knee over your head and bend it behind your back. And then, bend your other arm just below the shoulder. Join the two, posture ramrod straight, and feel your chest open.

Naturally, you should alternate which limbs take the upper positions; yoga is all about balance, after all!

The Cat: No Hissing, Just Breathing

With its cute little name, the Cat - formally Marjarasana is nevertheless a formidable posture to relax with while practising yoga. The spine and transverse muscles are used, as are all the back muscles.

Just like a cat, it is about getting on all fours with your legs a little apart. Lean forward slightly, putting slightly more pressure on your arms. On the inhale, arch your back up while casting your head down. Your abs should tighten accordingly. Exhaling now, release the pose, return your head in-line with your spine and tighten your back muscles while slightly relaxing your abs.

You'll note that the Cat asana is not as overt as either Dog posture, and for a good reason. The Cat pose, like its namesake, works more stealthily to condition your muscles and render you flexible as a cat.

Many yogis prefer to practise yoga at sunset
One Yogi adopts the Tree position while the other embraces the Up-Dog at sunset. Photo credit: jaumescar on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Upward-Facing Dog: Just Begging for Flexibility!

Just like the Down-Dog asana, Up-Dog is a fundamental yoga pose. Easily mistaken for the Cobra (remember, we mentioned Up-Dog in the Cobra segment!), this pose starts from the same principle. Up-Dog allows you to stretch both your upper and lower back, provided you execute it correctly, especially at the level of the neck.

Unlike the Cobra, the Up-Dog also uses the strength of the limbs, and therefore also guarantees flexibility in the wrists and ankles.

As with the Cobra, place yourself face-down on your mat, with your hands just under your shoulders. Make sure your legs stay straight as you lift your torso (you should inhale as you lift). Then, unlike the Cobra pose, lift the pelvis and your thighs, as well. When properly executed, only your hands and toes touch the ground.

More challenging to achieve than the Cobra, the Upward-Facing Dog nevertheless works toward unparalleled flexibility of the whole body, from the hamstrings to the shoulders, including the spine.

The Tree Pose: Implied Rigidity Yields Flexibility

Particularly accessible to those who consider themselves to be stiffer, the Tree posture or Vrikshasana is the ideal movement to bind together body and mind. Fundamentally, it is a question of balance, since it is necessary to stand on one leg.

This posture starts by standing, legs parallel and feet planted. Choose a fixed point to look at in front of you - that will help you keep your focus. Then put your full body weight on one foot, rotating the other foot 90 degrees. Now raise that foot to rest on the inside of your other leg's knee, while joining your hands together as though in prayer.

Alternately, for a greater challenge to keeping your balance, you may raise your hands, still palm to palm, to the heavens.

Hold the position, breathing properly, and then release the pose. Don't forget to alternate which leg you stand on! Over time, your spine will become more flexible, the hips more mobile. What a great start to flexibility through yoga!

Through these 10 postures, you will reset the current limitations of how strong and flexible your body can be. Are you ready?

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