As you practice these stretch yoga poses, pay attention to the moment-by-moment sensations you experience, to help you stay in the present.
If you’re feeling stressed. overwhelmed or out of touch with who you deeply are, stretch yoga is a wonderful way to come back home to yourself and the present moment, whatever it holds.
Best stretch yoga pose
One of the definitions of stretch yoga is to yoke or unite the mind and body. When we’re preoccupied with thoughts or strong emotions, we can often feel a sense of separation both from others and ourselves.
Being aware of what your body is feeling, coordinating your breath with movement, and taking care of your physical needs as you practice stretch yoga can help begin to dissolve these barriers.
Some of the poses on the next few pages may already be familiar to you, but to bring a mindful quality to your practice, give your attention to the moment-by-moment sensations you experience as you work with the postures.
Breathing gently and fully into your belly throughout your practice, let yourself be curious about any areas of tension you feel and any discomfort, numbness, or heat. Notice also your thoughts.
Are you trying hard to get everything right?
Do you feel competitive – even if only with yourself?
See if you can simply observe your thoughts without judgment. Be sensitive also to any feelings the postures bring forward. Some people experience anger after a few breaths in Warrior II,
for example, or as you rest deeply in Child’s pose or Relaxation pose you may find that some sadness emerges. Work with the postures in a way that feels right for you on the day you practice.
Everyone has a unique anatomy, history of exercise, and relationship to their body, so it’s important you find your own expression of the pose. Honor the wisdom of your body and let it be your guide.
When you finish your practice, whether you’re working on one pose or have completed the whole sequence, move with sensitivity as you continue on to the next phase of your day, so you don’t disturb the atmosphere you’ve created and can keep the sense of relaxation.
Finally, rather than view the stretch yoga postures as fixed entities that have to look a certain way, see them as tools to help you find a deeper contact with yourself.
As you come closer to that point of stillness in the center of a pose, you may also find new insights arising that give you a deeper understanding of who you are and, with that, permission to treat yourself with greater kindness.
What equipment is needed for stretch yoga
All you need to start stretch yoga is a mat. However, a few pieces of yoga tool kit can help support your practice, especially if you’re a beginner.
Mat- Look for a cushioned, non-slip ‘sticky’ mat to support your back and stop your feet and hands sliding.
Block- These light foam rectangles are great for sitting on to support your back in poses such as Easy pose.
Strap- Use it as an extension of your hands to help you to move deeper into a pose such as Sitting forward bend.
Blanket- Use it to keep you warm in relaxation and restorative poses. Roll it up to support your neck in a backbend.
Brick- It will support your hands in poses such as Extended side angle, or your head in reclining poses.
Bolster- This will support you and help deepen relaxation in restorative poses and deep breathing exercises.
8 yoga books on Amazon a definitely worth a read-
For those looking for a deeper dive into stretch yoga, these eight books might hit the spot:
- Science of Yoga: Understand the Anatomy and Physiology to Perfect Your Practice-Amazon
- Healing Yoga: Proven Postures to Treat Twenty Common Ailments―Amazon
- Yoga for Stress Management-Amazon
- YOGA: Nutrition Education (Fasting and Eating for Health, Organism Cleaning Principles)-Amazon
- A Beginners Guide To Lose Weight Today With Yoga: Can You Really Lose Weight With Yoga?-Amazon
- Yoga Asanas For Weight Loss: Baba Ramdev Exercise Yoga For Weight Loss in Hindi-Amazon
- Discover The Power Of Yoga For Rapid Weight Loss-Amazon
- Yoga For Beginners: An Easy Yoga Guide To Relieve Stress, Lose Weight, And Heal Your Body-Amazon
The stretch yoga pose moves
Spend a minimum of five to 10 breaths in each pose, unless otherwise stated, but trust your inner guidance and follow what feels right for your body today.
Sit on your mat and cross your legs, shins parallel to its front edge.
Flex your feet, place your fingertips beside your hips, and root through your sitting bones as you draw your navel to your spine and lengthen out of your pelvis.
Open your chest, draw your shoulder blades down your back and lift through the crown of your head. Lengthen the back of your neck and close your eyes.
Explore movement in your upper body by stretching your fingers, circling your wrists and shoulders, moving your arms in any way that feels natural to you, and stretching and twisting your spine.
Bring your hands to your thighs, palms upwards, and weight sinking into the floor on each exhale. Let your mind be still.
Breathe evenly into your belly for a few moments, then gently open your eyes.
02- extended child’s pose
Kneel on your mat with your knees apart, big toes together, heels apart. On an exhale, walk your hands forwards, shoulder-width apart, and lower your torso between your thighs.
Root your hands into the floor, keep your elbows off the mat and slide your shoulder blades down your back. Exhale and gently rest your forehead on the floor or a block. Softly close your eyes.
Breathe deeply into your back body, extending through to your fingertips as you reach your tailbone to your heels.
Walk your hands to your right, breathing into your left side. Take two breaths, then exhale your hands back to center and repeat on the other side.
On an exhale, use your hands to gently come up to a vertical spine.
Come on to all-fours, knees below your hips and wrists beneath your shoulders. Spread your fingers wide.
Inhale, then, as you exhale, root through the base of your index fingers and thumbs as you release your head and tailbone to the floor and arc your spine to the ceiling. This is the Cat pose.
On your next inhale, tilt your tailbone upwards and release your spine down into a gentle backbend. Draw your shoulders down your back, take your chest forwards and up and gently raise your head. This is Cow pose.
Alternate between Cat and Cow, instigating the movement from your pelvis and following the natural pattern of your breath. To make it freeflow, circle your hips, rotate your neck and snake the spine as feels good for your body.
04- thread the needle
Start on all-fours, as for Cat/Cow pose (no 3). Inhale as you lift your left arm up to the ceiling and rotate your torso so you’re looking up at your left hand.
As you exhale, lower your left hand and thread it beneath your chest and under your right shoulder.
Bend your right elbow, lower your hips a little and bring the left side of your head or face to rest on the mat. Root into your right fingertips to take your shoulder back and deepen the twist.
Take a couple of breaths here, then on your next inhale, unthread your hand and take it back overhead.
Repeat the move twice more, then swap sides.
05- downward-facing dog
Begin on all-fours, hands a palm’s length in front of your shoulders, shoulder-width apart, fingers spread.
Root through the base of your thumbs and index fingers, then raise your knees, drawing your tailbone back and up.
Keep your knees bent, initially, and focus on extending your spine by grounding through your hands.
Rotate your upper arms externally and draw your shoulder blades down your spine. Lower your front ribs toward your thighs.
Take a couple of breaths here, then gently draw one heel after the other towards the mat, in a walking motion. Spread your toes and, if possible, lower both heels.
Experiment with free-flow stretch yoga, for example, by making a figure of eight with your hips.
From Mountain pose (no 7), with your feet hip-distance apart, take your hands to your hips and, on an inhale, root through your feet to lengthen your spine.
Exhale, bend your knees slightly and fold forwards from your hips to a parallel spine. Keeping your knees bent, inhale to lengthen your spine once more, then, as you exhale, continue folding forwards.
Release your arms and rest your hands on your ankles or the floor.
On each in-breath, feel your spine lengthening; on each out-breath, fold a little deeper. Consciously surrender, breathing softly for several breaths.
Make it free flow, by swaying your arms side to side, perhaps bending one knee at a time as you swing to each side. Inhale and gently uncurl to standing.
Place your feet together or up to shoulder-width apart, inner edges parallel. Balance your weight evenly over each foot.
Spread your toes and root through the base of your big and little toes. Lift your inner arches by drawing your ankles away from each other.
Draw your leg muscles to the bones, align your pelvis over your feet, relax your buttocks, and allow your tail and sitting bones to release to the floor. Breathe.
As you inhale, extend your arms to the sides and overhead, palms facing. As you exhale, release your shoulders down your spine.
On each inhale, ground through your feet and feel the corresponding lift in your spine as you lengthen through to the crown of your head. On each exhale, visualize your breath traveling down your body and through your feet.
Keep your gaze soft, and take five deep breaths, releasing your arms on an exhale to come out of the pose.
08- Low Lunge pose for stretch yoga
From Wide-legged standing forward fold (no 12), feet hip-width apart, place your hands either side of your feet and take a large step back with your right leg.
Resting on the ball of your right foot, straighten your leg and extend through your back heel. Your left knee is directly over your ankle, aligned with your middle toes.
Draw your left hip back and your right hip forwards to square your pelvis, then bring your thighs towards the mid-line.
Lengthen through the crown of your head and draw your shoulder blades down your back, keeping your gaze a few feet in front of you on the floor. Breathe.
To make it free-flow, draw your abdomen to your spine, and come up to a vertical spine, then explore moving your arms, one at a time, in large circles, extending them to the sides as you twist your torso to the right and left.
Repeat on the other side.
09- Side Angle pose in stretch yoga
Step your feet a leg’s distance apart, your left foot out 90°, your right foot in 15°. Align your front heel with your right instep, and root through the outer edge of your right foot.
With your weight balanced between both feet, inhale to raise your arms to the sides, shoulder height, parallel to the floor and palms down.
Exhale, bend your left knee over your ankle, keeping a micro-bend in your right leg as you take your left forearm to your thigh.
Tilt your tailbone towards your back heel and rotate your chest open. Then, on an inhale, sweep your right arm alongside your ear, palm down.
Ground through the outer edge of your back foot and feel the stretch from your toes to your fingertips. Gaze at the floor or, if comfortable, your upper hand. Breathe evenly and deeply.
Pause for a moment before repeating on the other side.
10- Warrior II in stretch yoga
Step your feet a leg’s distance apart, your left foot out 90°, your right foot in 15°. Align your front heel with your right instep, spread your toes and root through your big and little toes, and the outside edge of your right foot.
With your weight balanced between both feet, your pelvis in neutral and facing the long edge of your mat, inhale to raise your arms to the sides, shoulder height, parallel to the floor and palms down.
Lengthen from your center to beyond your fingertips.
On an exhale, bend your left leg to take your knee directly over your ankle, keeping a micro-bend in your right leg.
Breathing evenly, draw your navel to your spine, open your chest, and slide your shoulders down your spine. If comfortable, turn your head to gaze along your front arm, beyond your middle finger.
Pause for a moment before repeating on the other side.
11- Reverse Warrior stretch yoga
From Warrior II (no 10), inhale as you slide your back arm down your back thigh, and raise your front arm overhead, gently arching your spine laterally.
Root your feet down and lift your torso up on each inhale, feeling your side body open and, as you exhale, arc a little further into the backbend.
If comfortable for your neck, gaze at your upper hand, otherwise, look forwards and slightly upwards.
Take five deep breaths in the stretch yoga pose, then, on an exhale, lower your top arm and straighten your front leg. Pause for a moment before repeating on the other side.
12- wide-legged standing forward fold
Step your feet wide, inner edges parallel, toes spread and arches lifted. Anchor the outer edges of your feet.
Rest your hands on your hips and, on an inhale, root through your feet to lengthen your spine. As you exhale, fold forwards from your hips with a flat back, to take your spine horizontal to the floor.
Bring your arms behind your back and interlace your fingers, then continue lengthening your spine as you inhale, folding deeper as you exhale, bringing your arms up and forwards over your head.
For a more restful variation, place your hands on the floor beneath your shoulders, forearms vertical, head releasing to the floor.
Breathe deeply and evenly for five to 10 breaths then, taking your hands back to your hips, inhale to come back up to standing.
13- Tree pose for stretch yoga
From standing, transfer your weight onto your left leg. Spread your toes and ground through the base of the big and little toes. Lift the inner arch.
Keeping a micro-bend in your supporting knee, focus on a fixed point ahead and place the sole of your right foot against your inner left thigh or calf.
Use your right hand to lift your foot if needed, then place your hands on your hips.
Breathing into your belly, press the sole of your right foot into your left thigh and engage your thigh to anchor your foot.
Draw your tailbone towards the floor and your belly to your spine. Root through your supporting leg as you lengthen your spine through to your crown.
Bring your hands to prayer position and take three to five breaths then exhale and gently lower your hands and foot. Pause for a moment before, repeating on the other side.
With your feet wider than hip-width apart, inhale then, on an exhale, gently crouch down into a low squat, taking your hands to the floor in front of you.
Turn your feet out, so your knees are over your toes, then lower your heels, taking your feet as far apart as needed so your heels anchor into the ground.
Lift your hands into a prayer position and let your tailbone release to the mat. Press your palms together as you root through your feet, and push your upper arms into your inner thighs, your thighs into your arms.
This will help you lift out of your pelvis to lengthen through your spine.
Draw your shoulder blades down your back and let your chest expand. Take five to 10 deep breaths into your belly.
When you’re ready to come out, release your hands and come to a comfortable seated position.
15- head-to-knee forward fold
Sit with your legs extended then fold your right leg in so your heel touches your pubic bone and the sole rests on your inner thigh.
Draw your left hip back and your right knee forwards to square your hips. Flex your left ankle, reaching through the ball of your foot, and draw your navel to your spine.
Inhale as you raise your arms overhead, palms facing, then, on an exhale, lead with the crown of your head to fold forwards from your hips, taking your chest to your left thigh and your hands to your shin, ankle or sole of the foot.
Inhale again to lengthen, then exhale and fold a little further forwards, keeping the front body length. When you reach your edge, release your head down towards your left knee.
Breathe evenly and deeply for two minutes, enjoying the sensation of surrender. Inhale to come up to sitting and repeat on the other side.
16- Seated Twist in stretch yoga
From sitting with your legs extended, place your right foot outside your left knee, toes forwards and right knee pointing to the ceiling.
Bend your left knee and slide your right foot to the outside of your left hip. Root through your sitting bones.
Rest your right hand behind you and on an inhale raise your left hand. As you exhale, take your elbow outside your left knee, forearm vertical, and palm facing the right.
Keep your spine vertical and draw your shoulder blades into your back.
Inhale as you root through your right hand and sitting bones to lengthen your spine, then as you exhale, twist to the right.
Move a little deeper into the stretch yoga with each breath. Take your time, listening to the cues your body is giving you.
Inhale to gently ease back to the center, then pause before repeating on the other side.
17- Bridge pose stretch yoga
Lie on your back and take a moment to arrive in your body, then bend your knees and place your feet hip-distance apart and parallel, directly beneath your knees. Rest your arms at your sides, palms down.
Inhale, ground through your feet and, on an exhale, tilt your tailbone up to gently peel your spine away from the floor, vertebra by vertebra.
Keep your thighs parallel, knees hip-distance apart, and continue rooting through your feet to lift your chest. Roll your shoulders up, back and down, then lengthen the back of your neck.
Bring your hands together beneath you, interlink your fingers and snuggle your shoulders together. Focus on grounding through your feet to lift through your heart.
Take five deep breaths into your abdomen, then, on an exhale, slowly uncurl your spine to rest on the floor. Extend one leg at a time, then rest for a few moments with your eyes closed.
Lie on your back, legs a comfortable distance apart, arms to the sides of your body, palms facing the ceiling. Gently close your eyes.
Breathe softly and evenly into your belly, letting your eyelids be heavy, and your eyes sink deeper into their sockets. Relax your temples and soften your jaw.
Release your neck, shoulders, and arms. Invite your belly to expand and your thighs, calves, and ankles to relax. Let everything be soft and heavy.
Rest for five to 10 minutes. Breathe naturally, allowing your body to experience a sense of expansion as you inhale, and a feeling of softening as you exhale.
To come out of the stretch yoga pose, slowly wriggle your fingers and toes then gently stretch your body from your feet to your fingertips.
Slowly bring your knees to your chest, roll over to your right side, and rest for a few moments, then use your left hand to help you come up to sitting.
Most read- Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World– Amazon
The sequence of stretch yoga
Spend a minimum of five to 10 breaths in each pose of stretch yoga, unless otherwise stated, but trust your inner guidance and follow what feels right for your body today.
- Easy seated pose- Come onto your knees and sit back into…Extended child’s pose- Come onto all fours, into Cat/Cow ℜ– Move straight into…
- Thread the needle- take your hands shoulder-width apart and raise your hips into The downward-facing dog ℜ– Walk your feet forwards into
- Standing forwardℜ- fold On an in-breath, take your arms out to the side and overhead as you come up to Extended mountain pose- On an out-breath, take your arms out to the side as you lower your hands either side of your feet and step your right leg back into
- Low lunge ℜ– Turn your back toes under and place your right foot parallel to the short end of your mat. Place your left hand inside your left foot (or your forearm on your left thigh) and arc your right arm overhead to come into
- Side angle– Bring both arms parallel to the floor to come into Warrior II- Slide your right hand down your thigh and raise your left arm overhead into
- Reverse warrior- Come back up to Warrior II, then turn your feet to parallel and lower into Wide-legged standing forward fold- Walk your hands to your right foot and repeat 9-12 on the other side. Walk your hands to your left foot, turn to face the front of your mat, and come up to standing.
- Tree pose- Balance for a few breaths on each leg, then lower into Garland- Lower onto your bottom, then bring your left leg in front of you to come into
- Head-to-knee forward fold- Place your right foot outside your left knee to come into the Seated twist- Release and repeat 15-16 on the other side Bridge into Relaxation pose.
Free flow of stretch yoga
Where a stretch yoga pose is marked with ℜ exploring any movement in it that feels good. If you feel your body could benefit from revisiting certain stretch yoga postures, repeat them before moving onto the next one.
You could also alternate between consecutive postures a few times to build a mindful stretch yoga flow. Poses 6 & 7 and 9, 10 & 11 work well in this way.
Here are some Journal Articles for you
If you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness from an academic standpoint, there are a few key journal articles to put on your reading list:
- how to be mindful and 4 mindfulness worksheets
- 10 amazing life changer mindfulness quotes
- How to get started a walking meditation
- 10 amazing health benefits of mindfulness and easy meditation technique
- 5 easy way of Loving Kindness Meditation technique and benefit
- 101 way of Start a mindful breathing well
- 7 ways of mindfulness body scan meditation exercise: benefit
- Walking meditations: with peace is every step
- What is mindful eating: techniques, benefit, exercise
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