While yoga is a popular way to maintain both mind and body wellness, yoga stretches for legs in particular could be a fast fix to help soothe cramped muscles and support mobility.
In yoga, all the muscles work together in concert to execute poses in perfect balance and control. However, when it comes to many standing poses, the legs and its muscles arguably work harder in creating a stable base for you to move from pose to pose with ease.1
To boost these specific muscles in your hips, thighs (including your hamstrings), and legs, consider trying these effective yoga stretches for legs. Read on for a detailed step-by-step guide.
Benefits Of Yoga Stretches For Legs
Aside from helping you execute poses more successfully and thus deepening your yoga practice, taking a little extra time to master some essential yoga stretches for legs can offer several potential benefits. Yoga leg stretches may help:
- Strengthen and tone leg muscles.
- Provide a stable foundation for the rest of your body to balance and flow from pose to pose.
- Support muscle flexibility in leg muscles, including quads and hamstrings.
- Help build full-body coordination.
- Provide a rewarding mental workout.2
With all these potential benefits for the taking, maybe it’s time to pay a little extra attention to the finer details of the following poses when you encounter them in your practice.
You might feel this yoga pose really stretching out your hamstrings and calves, and it is. But this extremely beneficial pose could also support a healthy spine and help strengthen your deep abdominal muscles (which help stabilize the spine).3
- On a yoga mat, come to all fours. Stack your shoulders above your wrists, and make sure your knees are centered underneath your hips.
- In preparation, curl your toes underneath your feet and gently push back against your palms. Simultaneously lift your hips and straighten your legs.
- Stabilize your upper body by flattening your fingers against the mat, and rotating your forearms slightly outward to release pressure from your chest and shoulders. Allow your head to hang, making a mental note to relax your shoulder blades.
- Move your weight to the lower half of your body by engaging your thighs and hamstrings. Keep your tailbone anchored high as you slowly coax your heels closer to the mat.
- Don’t step your feet closer to your hands just to fully sink your heels flat into the mat. The action of trying to drive weight down through your heels and away from your upper body already makes this stretch a successful one.
- After a few deep breaths, release the position on an exhale. Bend your knees and come back down to all fours on the mat.4
This is a resting pose good for relieving tension and stress in your muscles, including your leg muscles (hamstrings and quads). It’s often called upon as a type of breather between more challenging yoga sequences.5 Stay in the pose for a few deep breaths and you’ll feel a good stretch from your thighs and hamstrings to your toes.
- Come to a kneeling position on your mat. Touch your big toes together, then sit back on your heels. Create distance between your knees until they are about hip-width apart.
- On an exhale, lean forward until your torso rests between your thighs.
- Try to visualize your hips narrowing down into your navel as you nestle your torso snugly between your thighs. Imagine your tailbone lengthening away from behind your pelvis, as well as the base of your skull gently lifting away from the neck.
- Place your outstretched hands, palms up, on either side of your torso. Release the tension from your shoulders as you rest your arms fully on the mat. Feel your shoulder blades relaxing broadly across your back.
- Stay and practice your yoga breathing (inhale and exhale) in the position for a couple of minutes. When ready, inhale and slowly lift your torso up, taking it from the tailbone pressing back down into the back of your pelvis.6
Reclining Big Toe Pose
Don’t let this prone position fool you — this stretch works hard to help your hamstrings and calves. It may also help with blood circulation and increase the flexibility in your hips, pelvic area, and throughout the outstretched leg.7
- Lie flat on your mat, feet flexed. Establish your breathing technique.
- Use your inner thighs as an anchor. Gently lift your lower back to create a small arch (large enough for you to pass your hand through).
- Maintaining this position, slowly lift your left leg off the mat and bend it closer to your chest. Gently grip your leg at the knee using both hands for support. At the same time, make sure to nail your right thigh to the mat to keep your balance and curve in your back stable.
- Slowly straighten your left knee, bringing your left foot up to the ceiling gently (as far as your flexibility will allow). You’ll feel a deep stretch in your hamstrings.You may have seen more advanced versions of this pose with the practitioner gripping their big toe with their left hand, but for now, you can simply support the outstretched leg with both hands at the knee.
- Hold for a few deep breaths before lowering. Repeat the sequence with the right leg.8
Exercise Good Judgment Before Practicing Yoga
If you’re new to yoga, it’s best to make sure you’re guided by a certified instructor before attempting any advanced or special poses and positions alone at home. If you’re serious about developing stronger legs, more flexible quads, calves, and hamstrings, and improving your hip mobility, you should consult with your yoga teacher about the finer points of the yoga stretches for legs outlined above.
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