Despite the story Instagram tells you, you don’t need to be an acrobatic contortionist to maneuver yourself into yoga postures. Gaining flexibility is one of the primary goals of yoga, which means you shouldn’t worry about being flexible before you get to class.
You can even think of this way: the stiffer you feel, the more you’ll gain from the practice. Plus, there are lots of yoga poses that people who aren’t flexible can easily start with to begin opening up.
Here are nine yoga poses for people who aren’t that flexible.
It may look like you need to be Gumby to pull this one off, but don’t be fooled. There are a lot of ways to modify, and whatever version you choose will feel tasty for your lower half. Pigeon pose has been dubbed the “king of hip openers,” after all, so this is your one-way ticket to flexibility.
How To Do It: Bring your front shin parallel to the top of your mat. The closer you bring your heel into your groin, the less intense the stretch will be. No matter what, make sure your back leg is straight and in line with your hip.
Chair Pose or “Utkatasana”
This is a symmetrical pose, meaning both sides of your body will be moving in and out of the pose at the same time. It heats you up and strengthens the legs.
How to do it: Stand with your feet together or hip-width apart if you’re stiff. Bend your knees (like you’re sitting in a chair) while raising the arms up alongside your ears.
Modification: Chair pose can be challenging, so feel free to move out of the pose and into mountain pose on alternating breaths. This also makes it more dynamic.
Bound Angle Pose
This one is perfect for tight inner hips and groin area. If you wince from just glancing at that picture, you should probably prop a blanket or a block underneath your hips, giving your pelvis more space to work with.
How To Do It: Bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees fall out to the side. Adjust your heels to come in as close to your hips as you can, and grab your big toes with your peace fingers. You can use your elbows to apply pressure to the inside of your knees. Instead of just plopping over, keep your head lifted and think about bringing your chest to your feet.
Think doing nothing is easy? For many of us, especially those who haven’t tried yoga before, the concept of doing nothing is actually very challenging. This pose is both calming and grounding, and you can use it to cool down.
How to do it: In this pose, close the eyes and attempt to just relax the body while lying flat on your back. Lie with your legs about hip-width apart and rest the arms at about a 45 degree angle to the torso, palms facing up. Allow your limbs to completely relax.
Trainer tip: If you need more space for the lower back, you can place a folded blanket under the knees, which will help to lengthen the lower back. If you’re feeling stressed, placing blankets over the pelvis can help relax the body and the mind.
This simple backbend packs a big punch. It’s also a hip extension that improves your posture and opens up your hamstrings. The fact that it tones your butt in the meantime is just icing on the cake.
How To Do It: Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Raise your hips toward the ceiling, making sure your knees are lined up directly over your heels. Interlace your hands underneath for extra oomph. Draw your chest toward your chin, not the other way around.
Upward Facing Dog
The front side of your body — chest, abs, and frontal hips — will love you for this one. It feels good in your lumbar spine too while toning your arms. If you ever take Vinyasa flow, this posture comes up a lot, so it’s good to have the mechanics nailed down.
How To Do It: Lie on your belly. Bring your hands underneath your shoulders, close to your chest, and push up until arms are straight. If you can, get your knees off the ground, pressing through the tops of your feet. You can look up if it suits your neck.
Locust Pose or “Salabhasana”
This back bend is extremely accessible for beginners. It’s energizing and heating, but it strengthens all the muscles of the back. This pose is perfect for improving posture, and for many of us with weak upper back muscles (largely due to desk jobs) it works the upper back muscles.
How to do it: Lie on the belly and inhale while raising everything off the floor—arms, legs, and chest. Palms should face the floor, while you focus on keeping your neck long and extending the head up and away from the chest. You can also clasp your hands behind your back when you lift up your limbs, which will create a deeper opening for the chest and shoulders.
Warrior 2 or “Virabhadrasana II”
This pose strengthens the legs; it’s heating and it helps to open the inner thighs.
How to do it: In this standing pose, you step your feet wide apart, about a leg’s distance apart. Turn your right leg out 90 degrees, and then angle your left toes in just slightly. Take your arms out to the side, to be level with the floor and then you bend your right knee so that it stacks on top of your ankle. Make a square with that right knee and hold the pose. Then, repeat for the opposite side.
Modification: You can come in and out of the position with each breath if it’s too difficult to hold.
Seated Spinal Twist
Twisting is crucial for a healthy spine, so don’t give it the cold shoulder. A posture like this wrings every part of your back, even the cervical spine, granting you with more mobility in the long run.
How To Do It: For this particular variation, bring your right leg straight out in front of you and bend the left so the knee faces the ceiling. You can either cross your left over the right thigh or leave it where it is. Bring your right arm up and over, pressing gently into the left knee. Look over your left shoulder. Hold for several breaths and switch sides.