5 Great Yoga Stretches to Increase Flexibility & Reduce Injury

By: Vivinne (Kala) Williams (@KalaViv)

You do not have to be bendy, spaghetti thin or young to do yoga! The body-positive movement and increasing diversity is opening up the stereotype of who does yoga. Back in the day when I began studying yoga (I got certified to teach in 1994) I was usually the only person of color in the room. But the yoga itself made me feel so wonderful, and I felt welcome even if I stood out.

So while I stopped running in college, I still stay active, I love brisk walking around NYC.

Read through the instructions completely first before trying them. Then have it with you as you do them. And always-listen to your body. Each body is different and each day is different. You should never feel a sharp pain, if you do stop what you are doing and rest.

 Benefits: this series stretches out the back body, the hamstrings and back especially as runners tend to be tight in those areas.

Do this on level grassy ground or inside on a mat, not a hard surface.

  1. Swan:
    • Lay on belly, arms by the side palms facing the sky, forehead touching the ground/mat. Inhale, Exhale lift head, upper body, legs and arms up. Roll the shoulders back and down away from ears, arms angled out like airplane wings. Palms face towards the body as you hold, and arms are about a foot away from the body.
    • Breath deeply in and out 3-5x. Exhale and relax down, rest, turn head to the side.
  2. Childs pose: from previous position push up to all fours then bend knees all the way- till buttocks are resting over heels, chest on thighs, forehead to ground. For most people it’s more comfortable to have hands under forehead. if this bothers your knees then just lay on your back and hug bent knees to the chest and breath and relax.
  3. Lunge stretch:
    • Place left knee down on ground, right knee is bent, foot flat. Front knee stays in line with ankle is safest alignment. Hands can stay on either side of front leg resting on the ground.
    • Optional- after a few breaths, they can rest on that right thigh; this deepens the stretch, if it’s too much rest hands back on ground. Breath deeply in and out 5-10x. Switch sides.
  4. Downward dog:
    • Start on your hands and knees, hips in line over the knees. Hands usually do best a bit in front of the shoulders or try directly under the shoulders, fingers spread wide.
    • Inhale, Exhale lift hips into the air, relax head and face.
    • You will most likely feel stretch in shoulders, back and back to thighs, it’s ok to bend knees if needed.
    • Breath deeply in and out 5X and come down to knees. Relax.
  1. Single-leg forward bend:
  • Seated, bend the left leg up so left foot is by inner right thigh.   Right leg is straight out from that hip, foot is flexed heel forward toes back.
  • Inhale arms up overhead, exhale bend forward, rest arms on either side of that right leg, near the knee or calf or if you are very flexible, near the ankle.
  • Keep the head in line with spine, don’t round the back. Think that belly rests on the thigh, then chest only then would head go forward to touch the leg. This is not your goal, it’s simply a way of understanding the proper positioning. Breath deeply in and out 5-10x. Switch sides.


Post-run: If you are not used to stretching much especially after running, take it easy, as since you are quite warmed up, you are liable to stretch fairly deeply.

Pre-run: I actually recommend, doing a bit of aerobic warm up, then once you feel the blood is moving through the major muscles-do these before your run, to enhance your warmup.

 Get a 25% discount off of my Zen of Crisis: 3 Practices for Stress” (yoginikala.bandcamp.com/) by using “bgrdiscount” at checkout.

 Vivinne (Kala) Williams has 19 years experience teaching holistic wellness & has been featured in Self, Yoga Journal & Essence magazines. During a brutal stint in academia these practices helped her survive the stress of work-place bullying and unemployment. Her site is yogablissdance.com. On YouTube.

JayEll Alexander
JayEll Alexander


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