Being able to wake up every day without the stiffness of the night before or simply capable of walking through life with a little extra flexibility are just two of the incredible benefits seen through the practice of restorative yoga.
While sometimes seen as a mindful practice, the importance of yoga reaches into the realms of physical activity and strength, too. Therefore, having yoga stretches (no matter how many or few) as part of your daily routine will be key to enabling pain-free movement and extended flexibility as well as the time to take a breather for mindfulness without having to sit in ‘Om’.
That’s why the team here at The Hobby Kraze couldn’t miss bringing you the ultimate guide to yoga and the A to Z of gentle yoga stretches you could incorporate into your daily routine.
Take a look at what is in this ultimate guide to yoga:
- The 10 Types of Yoga Practiced in 2021
- The History Behind Gentle Yoga Practices Around the World
- The Importance of Yoga and You
- The A to Z in the Ultimate Guide to Gentle Yoga Stretches
- Boat Pose
- Bound Ankle
- Bow Pose
- Chair Pose
- Child’s Pose
- Corpse Pose
- Downward Dog
- Half Lord of the Fishes
- Half Moon
- Mountain Pose
- Pigeon Pose
- Seated Bend
- Side Plank
- Structured Seat
- Tree Pose
- Triangle Pose
- Upward Dog
- Warrior I
- Warrior II
- Warrior III
As we begin, it’s important to acknowledge that gentle yoga and restorative yoga might sound soft, but it isn’t always. And, while these yoga stretches can be some of the simplest to allow to mindful breathing, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be easy. Yoga, as with any activity, requires physical effort and exercise, whether it’s training the body to breathe soundly in Triangle Pose or bypassing the stretching pains of the Seated Bend.
Now, you can begin gentle yoga practices with the knowledge of having earned the benefits.
The 10 Types of Yoga to Practice this Year
We’ve mentioned ‘gentle yoga’ and ‘restorative yoga’ a few times, but these are just two of the ten types of yoga stretches any yogi will come across in their adventure to mindfulness.
Here are the ten types of yoga stretches as well as their core focus:
- Iyengar (Posture)
- Ashtanga (Strength)
- Viniyoga (Awareness)
- Jivamukti (Spiritual)
- Hatha (Calibration)
- Vinyasa (Athleticism)
- Bikram (Circulation)
- Kundalini (Energy)
- Yin (Relief)
- Restorative (Restoration)
When talking about restorative yoga and gentle yoga, we mean the Restorative practice and the Yin practice.
Over the years, these practices of yoga have developed, and some others have fallen, there are even moves dedicated to pre-natal care. Yet, it’s key to acknowledge that practicing yoga is a journey of self-discovery where you choose the moves, stretches and practices to suit your lifestyle.
The team here at The Hobby Kraze have had the opportunity to dabble in a little of everything. And, we feel, Yin and Restorative yoga practices are gentle enough to be implemented into various lifestyles as a beginner activity and then built-upon with time.
The History Behind Gentle Yoga Practices Around the World
The short of it is that yoga is a spiritual practice aiming to bring a synergy between the mind and body: strengthening, lengthening and engaging in both. The long story is that it has been a part of growing Indian culture for thousands of years with a guru named Shiva thought to be the first yogi.
According to the Indian Government website, the importance of yoga is a process of practices that begins with the body and then focuses on the breathing before thinking about the mind and inner self. And, to clear a common misconception, traditional yoga features Asanas of three positions with all other yoga stretches being a Hatha for preparing the body.
The essential mainframe of yoga is to embrace the energy of the sun through a guru’s teachings. This realisation comes after a bounty of seals within the valleys of India have been found to portray these core Sutras of yoga.
In a modern day, however, there are many Sutras that have evolved into the ten types of yoga stretches including the Yin yoga and Restorative yoga practiced for stretching and stillness.
The importance of yoga is a recognised practice growing over recent decades with dedications to yoga appearing in Universities, health care units, research centres and more.
The Importance of Yoga and You
Yoga stretches can be done by anyone: whether you’re big, small, male, female, an athlete, a sedentary worker, pregnant, injured, depressed, alone, in a group, at home, away and more… There’s no limit to who can participate in such a slow and beneficial activity.
Gentle yoga and restorative yoga are a balance for stretching and stillness that can provide a calming separation from life. With this, it shouldn’t be thought of as a cultural or religious practice (for modern movement in western society) but more of a peaceful activity carrying a lifetime of benefits for you and those around you.
For example: when facing a stressful time at work, you may feel anger and anxiety which can negatively impact your health and those around you. Yet, dedicating just 15 to 30-minutes each day to engage in a gentle physical activity, you can improve your health and mood while leaving a positive impact on those around you.
There are many other benefits to engaging in daily yoga stretches aside from health and mood. So, the team at The Hobby Kraze have gathered a list of reasons for the importance of yoga practices:
- Helps with weight loss
- Manages stress
- Reduces anxiety
- Increases self-awareness
- Ignite attention-spans
- Improves immunity to external bodies
- Increases flexibility
- Provides full-body movement
- Ables strength training
- Betters overall balance
- Gives a base for routine
- Provides a space to relax
- Gives time to contemplate
- Helps with sleep
- Improves respiration
- Enables other activities
- Aids with mood and emotion
- Maintains a balanced metabolism
- Helps with cardio performance
- Decrease inflammation
- Betters heart health
- Fights depression
- Reduces chronic pain symptoms
The A to Z in the Ultimate Guide to Gentle Yoga Stretches
There are hundreds of yoga stretches designed to benefit the body and thousands of yoga flows that work to enable movement, breathing, stress relief and flexibility.
Here in this ultimate guide to yoga, we have an A to Z of varied yoga stretches you can incorporate in your morning or evening yoga flow to reach self-discovery goals. Whether your aim is to access new mobility, to be able to escape to a place of mindfulness or simply gain strength in the body and soul, yoga stretches are a vital cog in the machine.
To prepare, wear stretchy clothing, use a yoga mat, keep a yoga block to one side and have water close by.
Here at The Hobby Kraze, we suggest designing a gentle yoga flow that incorporates at least five of these yoga stretches on loop for at least 15 minutes of practice. However, feel free to adapt; it’s called yoga flow for a reason, so listen to your body.
Boat Pose is an intermediate-level position requiring core strength and patience to retreat into mindful growth. Yet, as mentioned, the importance of yoga is to encapsulate everything from strength in the mind to strength in the body.
Begin sat on a flat surface bringing your legs to the front. Ensure your back is straight and you are sat at a 90-degree angle. When ready, lean back and bring your legs with you so you remain in your 90-degree angle while balancing on your glutes. Point your arms in parallel with the ground and breathe to ten. After reaching ten, inhale and relax your body on the exhale.
This is a very popular pose among those (particularly women) looking to open the hip, thigh and pelvis regions while paying close attention to the psoas muscle to help prevent chronic back pain.
Simply begin seated with a straight back and legs in front. Keeping the feet together and on the floor, slowly bring your feet toward your body. Make sure the knees bend outward rather than upward and you should begin to see a diamond form between the legs and body. The stretch can be felt in the upper back, the pelvis, the hip and the adductor magnus muscle.
Named as such because the pose resembles an archer’s bow, this movement creates strength in the entire spine from neck to tail bone.
In order to maintain this pose, there are two variations: first, lie face-down on the floor and lift your legs, arms and upper chest off the ground. Second, from this position, take the arms behind and hold your ankles. Breathe in this position with the looking forward for a minute.
The Bridge Pose is another intermediate level pose as it requires strength in the shoulders, glutes, back, ankles and core.
Begin by lying down face-up to the ceiling. Then, slowly bring your feet closer to your body (while remaining planted on the ground) as your upper legs, glutes and back lift. Try reach for your ankles. Keep your shoulders firmly planted into the ground, tuck the chin into the chest and squeeze your glutes to create a positive lift between you and the floor. Breathe gently into the pose for about 15 breaths.
Camel Pose slightly resembles the shape of Bridge Pose, yet is done on the knees with the head back rather than on the back with head forward. These are very advantageous yoga stretches as this gentle yoga begins to relax the upper back, lower back, chest, shoulders and knees. Therefore, it’s highly recommended for sufferers of tight chest and lower back pain.
To achieve Camel Pose in restorative yoga, begin kneeling shoulder-width apart, straightening the back, taking the hands into the chest for Om and tilting the head back. Then, slowly begin to bend backwards and look to the wall behind. When ready, take your hands and hold your ankles for support.
This gentle yoga practice involves movement. It is the only pose in this A to Z that will require movement, but it is a vital exercise within a yoga flow that helps to loosen stiff joints and muscles around the neck, back, knees, wrists, shoulders and core.
Begin on all fours with hands, knees and feet shoulder-width apart. As you inhale, tuck the chin into the chest, tuck the tailbone into the ground and lengthen the centre of your back to the ceiling. Then, as you exhale, slowly look up and push your back into the ground. Repeat these two moves for thirty seconds at the start and end of your yoga flow to ensure a mobility-filled and pain-reduced day.
Chair Pose requires core strength as well as stability in the knees and feet. Even if this is not a typical attribute, they will grow as you continue your restorative yoga stretches.
To achieve Chair Pose, begin in something known in the yogi community as ‘Sun Salutation’. This is where you stand straight with feet shoulder-width apart and palms together to reach for the sun. When ready, slowly bend the knees until they’re at a right-angle and breathe there for one minute. Or, proactively work towards one-minute as the joints and muscles relax with yoga stretches.
One of the most popular yoga stretches, it requires you to enter a true ‘child’s pose’. It is a gentle yoga relaxation method that stretches the lower back after engaging in other movements throughout your yoga flow.
Begin kneeling, then lower your head to the ground and bring straight arms above the head. Your glutes and heels should have contact and your knees and chest should also contact; however, this may be something that comes with time.
Another favourite in the yogi community, it requires a hard and flat surface to provide your neck, back and feet with vital restoration.
To begin, lie on the floor facing the ceiling. To finish this gentle yoga pose, stay there. It’s one of the simplest yoga practices, however, it’s not time to sleep. You should have your legs apart and your arms away from the body palms-up. As well as this, you need to dedicate the time to breathe slow and deep while allowing muscles to ‘melt’ into the floor.
The Dolphin is a deep stretch to open the shoulders, strengthen the arms, release the Achilles tendon and support the upper back while opening doors to other types of yoga flow.
Begin in Sun Salutation, bend at the hips and start to lower the body to the ground while keeping the legs straight. Reach the hands down to the floor and walk them in-front to create a triangle-shape. At this point, the heels may lift. While this is an ok disposition, the aim for Dolphin is to slowly lower the heels. Finally, lower your forearms to the ground with practice and time.
Downward Dog is the novice of Dolphin so can be a beneficial substitution during beginner practice. It is a well-preferred gentle yoga practice by many yogis across the world as it opens the shoulders, stretches the legs, releases the Achilles tendon, strengthens the arms, allows blood to flow to the head and supports the upper back through mindful breathing.
Simply follow the instructions for the Dolphin and stop before lowering the forearms to the ground. Don’t forget: the aim is to get the heels to the ground. You also need to ensure you’re pushing your shoulders through your arms to achieve the triangular pose.
Half Lord of the Fishes
This pose can be the perfect go-to for extending the hips, stretching the upper legs, opening the ribs and strengthening the back.
Begin in a seated position with a straight back. Place your right leg over your left, bending at the knee with the sole of the foot on the floor. Also bend the left leg keeping the knee grounded while aiming to touch left foot to right glute. Place your left arm on the floor behind you, meet your right elbow with right knee and twist the body. Remain in the pose breathing deeply for a minute before swapping sides.
Calling for openness in the pelvis and chest regions, the Half Moon pose is a strength, flexibility and balance practice done either side of the body.
To begin, stand in a Sun Salutation. Part the legs, stretch your arms out to the side and – while continuing to look forward – bend to one side. During this movement of restorative yoga, you’re trying to touch the floor with one hand, reach for the ceiling with the other and bring the leg opposite to the direction of travel into the air.
Mountain Pose, much like Corpse Pose, is a gentle yoga technique requiring no stretching manoeuvres. The benefits of this pose revolve around stability, posture and breathing strength. As well as this, it is one of the advantageous yoga stretches to allow longevity for up to an hour.
Begin in a Sun Salutation, bring the arms down to a 45-degree angle with the hips, ensure palms are facing forward and fingers are spread. Have your feet shoulder-width apart, stand tall and tilt your head toward the ceiling. Take deep breaths and feel the body opening up and relaxing for true restorative yoga.
The Pigeon Pose requires a seated start with legs crossed. Take one leg behind while straightening it. You should then sit up straight rather than to one side. The top of the foot behind you should be flat on the floor. To extend the pose, lean forward and breathe slowly to feel the benefit in your back and legs.
The plank requires core, arm and thigh strength in order to lift the body, flatline and remain in place for increasing durations. This is an intermediate pose demonstrating the importance of yoga being to build strength, stability and stamina atop breathing fullness and mindful thinking.
Lay on the floor face down, bring the elbows into the chest and hands by the face. Tuck the toes into the ground and push the body away from the floor. Your body should be a straight line from head to toe with only your toes, hands and forearms touching the floor. To remain flatlined, tuck your tailbone towards your chest and engage your core.
Also called the ‘Pike’, the ultimate guide to yoga is taking us into the realm of flexibility by opening the hips and pelvis while strengthening the legs and back. The pose is common among athletes as it enables breathing, openness, flexibility and strength.
Begin by sitting down with your legs in front and flat against the floor. Lift your arms into the air, face forward, close your eyes and straighten your back. Inhale and then – on the exhale – slowly lower your body to your knees. You may depress to the point of touching your toes or you might not get far, but this provides room for improvement through daily stretching.
The side plant fixates on strengthening the glute, oblique, neck, lower back and ankle regions while bettering overall balance and focus.
From the regular plank position, think about lifting through one side of the body and stacking the ankles. Choose a side to lift and push with that arm to face the wall rather than the floor. Your arm should then continue up to point toward the ceiling.
The Sphynx Pose is a very gentle yoga approach to building strength and opening the chest and shoulders. It is a recommended pose by surgeons and doctors after a surgery as well as being one of the go-to yoga stretches for athletes as part of their yoga flow.
Lie on the floor facing the ground. Place something between the feet and squeeze to hold at floor-level. Then, place hands (index fingers pointing in front) beside the face with forearms on the floor. Finally, push the upper body away from the floor, keeping the abdomen, pelvis, forearms, legs and feet at ground-level.
Structured Seat is one of the simpler yoga stretches akin to the seated bend. Meaning, it is a fantastic option for beginners reading this ultimate guide to yoga for daily stretches and stillness.
Simply sit with legs in front and flat against the floor. Lift your arms into the air, pressing the palms together for Om, face forward, close your eyes and straighten your back. Breathe in this position for around 30 breaths before moving on.
The Tree Pose is the number one choice for first-stage gentle yoga approaches to one-leg balance. It adapts with restorative yoga to suit your balance and strength capabilities. Using both legs for mindful practice, you can get into a healthy state of Om while improving balance and strengthening the core and legs.
Begin in the Sun Salutation and bring the hands to the chest (remaining in the Om with palms touching). When ready, start to lift one leg off the ground. As you feel more stable, place your foot on the inside of the leg still planted on the floor. The aim is to get the foot as high as possible (preferably above the knee) while maintaining straight posture and balance.
Another one to enable healthy breathing, an opened chest and a strong posture, this gentle yoga pose is a standing variation similar to Half Moon movement with extra stretch in the lunge.
Start in Sun Salutation and spread the legs to a 90-degree angle. Bring the arms down to shoulder height and point in opposite directions. Then, choose a direction between left or right and begin bending. You should feel a stretch in your oblique. Continue down until one hand touches your calf and the other faces the ceiling.
Upward Dog is a yoga stretch commonly mistaken for others such as: Sphynx Pose. It is also called Updog by many yogis around the world. The point being to strengthen the spine, wrists and shoulder while stimulating the core and improving overall posture through lower back decompression.
Begin in Sphynx Pose, adjust the hands to be in-line with the shoulders and then continue pushing the boy upwards. Your arms should be straight, your body lifted off the ground and your neck in extension of the spine rather than looking up or down.
There are three Warrior poses which work in flow to provide balance, strength and mindful breathing practice.
To begin with Warrior I, you need to start in a Sun Salutation. Place one leg in front to take you to a front-facing lunge. Keep your hands in Om with your back and back leg straight while your front knee is stacked over your foot.
From Warrior I, bring your hands down to shoulder height while keeping your arms straight. Turn the back foot 90-degrees away from the body and then turn the entire upper-body to face the same direction as the foot.
From Warrior II, take the movement back to Warrior I and begin to shift your weight onto your front foot while bringing your back foot into the air and leaning forward. You should emulate the letter ‘T’.
When the three Warrior yoga stretches are complete, you should feel full-body restoration and revival. Be sure to complete this gentle yoga practice on both sides of the body.
Now you know the A to Z of yoga stretches and the importance of yoga for your mind and body, you can begin to design your own yoga flow to wake up to and relax with.
However, while these Restorative yoga and Yin gentle yoga practices are calm, slow and relaxing, they require a level of physical strength and activity. Therefore, it’s very important you’re able to provide healing through at-home remedies such as foam rolling. And, to learn more about foam rolling, have a read of our article; “The 15 Different Types of Foam Rollers and Finding Which One is Right for You”.
Don’t forget to share your yoga flow and practice with the team here at The Hobby Kraze because we love seeing your progress!