We've all noticed that creaking and cracking in the morning intensify as we get older, but — contrary to popular belief — getting stiffer is not a fact of life we just have to sit back and suffer through. Starting your day off with a healthy habit of deep yoga stretches can not only help you to stay limber — it may have you splitting like a kid again.
Stretching ups flexibility, increases athletic performance and decreases activity-based injuries by delivering blood to your hard working muscles, and it also helps to give your bod that super-slim, toned appearance — if that's what you're going for.
The splits, of course, are the ultimate test of stretchability, but the thought of busting them out might cause panic. Don't freak out just yet — I promise to ease you into this pose nice and slow.
Stick with these five stretches and you'll master the splits in no time.
Standing straight up, feet together, arms by your side, reach your hands up and overhead into a prayer position and then swan-dive your arms and chest down toward the ground. Let your fingertips or palms fall to either side of your feet and slowly start to bring your chest in towards your knees. If you have a hard time reaching your toes, put a little more bend in your knees until your hands are on the floor. Keep pressing your chin and chest in towards your knees and thighs for the maximum stretch. Remember to never lock your knees and always keep a slight bend in them to avoid injury.
Stretches hamstrings and back, alleviates anxiety, relieves headaches, improves digestion and quiets the mind.
Starting in Tadasana, or mountain pose (standing straight up, feet together, arms by your side), gently step one foot about 3 to 4 feet behind the other, allowing the toes to turn out slightly to the side and aligning your back heel with your front heel. Note: It's important that your feet should not be directly in line with one another. Instead, your back foot should be a few inches to the side to balance more effectively. Once your legs are in place, bring your hands to either side of your front foot and lower your chest and chin in towards the top of your thigh. Continue reaching your fingers and hands behind the front leg for more of a stretch.
Stretches the spine, shoulders, wrists, hips, hamstrings and strengthens the legs. Improves posture and balance and calms the brain.
Next Up: Lizard pose
Originally published October 2013. Updated January 2017.
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