Oh, the age-old question “how to become flexible.” It’s no big secret that many people turn to yoga for flexibility. Most come to yoga with high hopes. They plan to touch their toes within a month or master a deep backbend by the end of the year.
While their aspirations are admirable, many beginners feel defeated pretty quickly by their lack of mobility on the mat. A lot of beginners feel like they’ll never be able to practice yoga at all because they just aren’t flexible enough to even start with “basic” postures.
As a yoga teacher, this breaks my heart. Yoga is for everybody and every body. No matter how inflexible you may be, there is a yoga pose for you and there are modifications that you can practice to eventually answer that age-old question about how to become flexible.
Many beginners feel defeated by their lack of mobility on the mat.
You can use yoga for flexibility gains and you’ll probably be surprised to hear that the best way to do this is actually to use props.
I know, I know . . . a lot of people (and even teachers!) think that using props is a “crutch” and doesn’t allow you to “fully realize” the postures. But I call BS!
Props are excellent tools to build strength, stability, and – of course – flexibility as well!
Ready to jump right in? Take this Beginner Flexibility Flow (Free 30-Minute Yoga Class)
How to Become Flexible 101 – Here Are 3 Ways to Use Blocks in Yoga for Flexibility:
These simple props are readily available just about wherever you practice – and for good reason! They’re some of the most versatile props out there and they’re any yogi’s best friend.
If you’re really wondering how to become flexible, yoga blocks are the place to start your journey.
Here are three ways you can use yoga blocks in yoga for flexibility gains:
1. Sit on Them
Sit onto blocks in any seated position. The elevation of your hips will allow your pelvis to tip forward into an anterior tilt. This will allow your spine to lengthen and will create space around your hips, lower back, and hamstrings.
So whether you’re folding forward into a hamstring stretch like Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold) or externally rotating your legs into a hip opener like Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose), this extra height will allow your body more space to relax and release.
In other words, blocks will allow for a deeper stretch, which will lead to greater flexibility.
2. Use Them for Balance and Height
Place your hands onto blocks in any standing position. By bringing the floor closer to you, you’ll be better able to align your spine and pelvis in many standing poses to create length and – you guessed it – flexibility!
So whether you’re placing your hands on blocks in a Standing Forward Fold to lengthen your hamstrings or propping up your hand in Triangle Pose to lengthen your side body, utilizing blocks to create more length in your body will, ultimately, create more flexibility.
3. Lay on Them
Place blocks underneath your pelvis or chest when you’re lying on your back.
Use blocks to create passive stretches like Supported Fish Pose with blocks underneath your chest and head to open your heart and stretch your chest and shoulders or under your pelvis in Supported Bridge Pose to stretch your hip flexors and front body.
How to Become Flexible 101 – Here Are 3 Ways to Use a Strap in Yoga for Flexibility:
A yoga strap is another excellent prop to use to create mobility. If you’re asking how to become flexible in your shoulders or your spine, a strap may very well be the best solution for you.
Here are three ways to use a yoga strap in yoga for flexibility gains:
1. Shorten Distances
Use a strap to shorten the distance between your arms and your legs.
Loop a strap around the ball of your foot in Reclined Big Toe Pose as you stretch the back of your legs without straining or hold a strap behind your back to bring your hands to meet in Cow Face Pose to release your shoulders.
No matter the distance, the strap will bring body parts closer together without strain so you can actually target the muscles that you’re trying to stretch.
2. Enable Binds
Another way to shorten the distance between your body parts is to utilize a strap in binding postures.
Hold a strap between your hands if interlacing your fingers behind your back feels unattainable in postures like Humble Warrior. The strap will help to “close the circuit” around your arms to get a great shoulder stretch.
Use a strap to connect your hands in other bound poses like Bound Warrior to stretch and release your shoulders and allow your torso to spiral more open toward the sky.
3. Wrap Yourself
Let a strap passively stretch you. Try tying a loop around your pelvis and legs in Reclined Bound Angle Pose to release your inner thighs.
Or wrap yourself completely into a ball in Reclined Child’s Pose to stretch your lower back and glutes.
Go even further with these 4 Ways to Deepen Your Practice With a Yoga Strap (Video Tutorial)
Bonus: Flip Your Grip
Kick back into the strap and pull forward against it to create opposing muscular energies that will both strengthen and lengthen your tissues.
How to Become Flexible 101 – Here Are 3 Ways to Use a Bolster in Yoga for Flexibility:
A bolster is such a nice prop to support your practice. It’s soft and squishy so it gives you some leeway as you use it to open deeper into your flexibility.
Here are three ways that you can use a yoga bolster in yoga for flexibility gains:
1. Create Support
Support your hips with a bolster in deep hip openers like Lizard Pose so that your muscles can soften and let go (and, therefore, stretch deeper!).
Try sliding a bolster underneath your hips in Pigeon Pose to elevate them higher and allow for more space, comfort, and stretch in your hips and lower back as you fold forward.
2. Add Cushioning
Lay over a bolster in any forward fold. Add cushioning and support between your legs and your torso.
You can place a bolster on an angle under your forehead in a Wide-Legged Seated Forward Fold or between your belly and your thighs in a classic Seated Forward Fold. The extra support will allow your muscles to relax so that your back body can release further into the stretch.
3. Get Comfy
Passively lay back over a bolster to stretch and release your chest and shoulders in a variation of Supported Fish Pose.
Slide the bolster underneath your knees in a Supine Twist to gently stretch your side body so you can surrender further into the twist.
Or place the bolster underneath your chest in Sphinx Pose to add support to your backbend as you gently lengthen your abdomen.
If You’re Wondering How to Become Flexible, Try Using Yoga Props!
While yoga isn’t only about creating flexibility, it can be a powerful practice to help you gain mobility in a stabilized range. And when it comes to how to become flexible, in yoga, props are your best friend.
But becoming flexible is a marathon, not a sprint. There is no magic potion you can take or pose you can practice to suddenly become a Cirque du Soleil contortionist.
However, there are small baby steps that you can take daily to help you become more flexible and some of the best tools to help you on that journey are yoga props.
Becoming flexible is a marathon, not a sprint.
Instead of thinking about how to become flexible, think about how you can maintain stability as you stretch (by using props!) to be able to maintain healthy alignment. This way, your muscles and connective tissues can feel safe and supported enough to let go of tension.
The more you can support your muscles, the more they’ll be willing to work with you, and that is how you can use props in yoga for flexibility gains.
Ready to Gain More Flexibility?
Take our Beginner Flexibility class on YA Classes with Alba Avella.
With Alba Avella
30-Minute Class | Beginner