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7 Stretches That Will Take Your Yoga Practice to the Next Level

Head to Knee Pose with Towel Modification

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  • Start in a seated position. Extend right leg long and place left foot inside right thigh.
  • Bend right knee to loop towel or anything you have (a t-shirt or yoga strap work equally well) around right foot, and then re-lengthen right leg.
  • Take a big inhale to lengthen spine, then use exhale to engage navel to spine, gently pulling on the towel, lean forward over right leg.
  • Keep spine as long as possible and relax torso toward thigh with each exhale.
  • Stay here for at least 5 to 10 deep breaths. Repeat with left leg long.

Photo: Kevin Talbot @shotbysmooth

Child's Pose with Side Opener

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  • Start in a kneeling position with knees slightly apart.
  • First, crawl hands forward, arms long and in front of you.
  • Allow torso to relax onto thighs, and forehead to rest on the ground.
  • Take a deep breath here to allow lower back to release.
  • Then, keeping hips rooted down, crawl arms long and over to the right, keeping shoulders away from ears.
  • The goal is to create as much space as you can in your side waist. Breathe here for at least 5 to 10 deep breaths.

Photo: Kevin Talbot @shotbysmooth

Modified Hip Opener

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  • Start seated. Bend knees and place both feet on the ground, hip-width apart with hands behind you.
  • Hands support you behind hips, fingers can face whichever way feels most comfortable for you.
  • Cross right ankle over left thigh, flexing right foot.
  • If there is space, inch hands closer to hips, keeping back long and not rounded.
  • Reach right knee away from body, and breathe here for 5 to 10 breaths before repeating on the other side.

Photo: Kevin Talbot @shotbysmooth

Low Lunge with Quad Opener

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  • Start in down dog. Round right knee toward your nose, and step right foot in between hands. Lower back knee down to the ground and un-tuck toes.
  • Crawl hands up onto right thigh, bringing spine upright with right knee aligned with the right foot and not beyond the toes. Rest right forearm or hand on right thigh for stability.
  • Bend left knee, reach left heel to the left thigh, and grab hold of left foot with left hand. If you have more space and feel steady, use right hand to place left foot in the left elbow before replacing right hand or forearm to right thigh.
  • Breathe here for 5 to 10 deep breaths before repeating on the other side.

Photo: Kevin Talbot @shotbysmooth

Forward Fold Variation

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  • Stand in mountain pose. Take a deep inhale to reach arms up overhead, framing face.
  • Use exhale to engage navel to spine and swan dive over legs with a flat back.
  • Grab hold of opposite elbows and hang, swaying side to side (if comfortable) to loosen lower back.
  • Press all four corners of both feet into the ground and lift your sits bones toward the ceiling. Relax head and neck, and for this variation, soften knees.
  • Breathe here for at 5 to 10 deep breaths.

Photo: Kevin Talbot @shotbysmooth

Wall Shoulder Opener

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  • Stand facing a wall. Place right forearm on the wall facing straight up (as pictured) with elbow at shoulder height and palm planted on the wall.
  • Keep body close to the wall and turn your body to the left as much as possible while keeping the forearm on the wall.
  • Breathe here for 5 to 10 deep breaths before slowly reversing and repeating on the other side.

Photo: Kevin Talbot @shotbysmooth

Wall Trap Release

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  • Stand facing a wall, at arm's distance away.
  • Plant palms on the wall at face height, shoulder-width or slightly wider apart.
  • Slowly walk away from the wall, drop torso, keeping palms connected, and relax head.
  • Breathe here for 5 to 10 deep breaths.

Photo: Kevin Talbot @shotbysmooth

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