7 Stress-Reducing Moves that Increase Flexibility

by Jessica Smith

Had a hectic day? Feeling super sore from your last workout? Wind down from a stressful day or simply stretch out soreness with this relaxing series of yoga-inspired stretches. The only equipment you’ll need is a basic throw pillow (or folded blanket) during a few of the poses to assist your body into deeper stretches and help build a foundation of flexibility.

These gentle moves are perfect for beginners or anyone who experiences a lot of tightness during more traditional yoga poses. Try putting together each move into a flow, performing each exercise back to back with little to no rest in between movements as often as you like. Try this stretch session after a workout or on its own.

For a full video workout with more moves like these, be sure to check out our “Yoga Stretch for Beginners and Beyond” DVD, which features two complete 30-minute a.m. and p.m. practices. There is a relaxing flows designed to help deeply stretch and release tight and sore muscles, and an energizing flow designed to build a foundation of strength and stamina.

7 Stress-Reducing Stretches

Stress Shake Off

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees soft. Bend your elbows and begin to shake hands from the wrists as quickly as possible. Imagine literally “shaking off” your stress, breathing deeply while you continue to shake your hands for 30-60 seconds. Stop suddenly, observing the tingling in your hands after you finish moving.

stress shake-off

Side Stretch

With feet hip-width apart and knees soft, take a deep breath in and extend arms overhead, palms facing in.

side stretch 1

Exhale and lower your right arm, reaching the fingertips towards the outside of your right knee, and looking up to your left hand.

side stretch 2

That’s one rep. Repeat on the opposite side. Do 10 alternating reps total.

Chi Circles

With feet hip-width apart and knees soft, take a deep breath in and swing arms in front of your body, bringing palms together.

chi circle 1

Continuing with the momentum of the swing, raise the arms overhead with palms still pressed together and elbows bent, dropping hands behind your head.

chi circle 2

Exhale fully and swing your arms down and back, separating the hands as the arms swing behind the body.

chi circle 3

Repeat, using your breath to guide the speed of your movement. Aim to breathe deeper each time for 10 reps total.

Supported Forward Fold

Begin seated on pillow (or folded blanket). Extend your left leg in front of the body, bending the right knee to the side, and drawing heel in as close to body as is comfortable for your knee. Take a deep breath in, sitting up tall and extending both arms overhead.

forward fold 1

Hinge forward from the hips, and bring the chest over the left thigh, reaching hands towards the leg or foot.

forward fold 2

Fold forward to your own degree, placing hands on thigh, shin or, if you can reach, hold on to your flexed foot for a deeper stretch. Hold for 30-60 seconds, breathing deeply; repeat on opposite side.

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

Begin kneeling on top of pillow (or folded blanket), and take a big step forward with your right foot, lining up the bent knee over the heel and placing hands on top of the right thigh.

kneeling hip flexor 1


Slowly shift weight forward into the right leg and lower hips towards the floor, leaving little to no pressure on the back knee. Hold for 30-60 seconds and then move right into the next pose before switching legs.

kneeling hip flexor 2

Half Split with Foot Stretch

From the hip flexor stretch, slowly walk both hands to the floor on either side of the right foot, coming up onto your fingertips for support. Gently shift your weight into the back leg to straighten the front leg to your own degree (just extend leg as much as is possible for you), keeping hips square and flexing the foot.

half split 1

If you feel ready for a little more, try releasing the toes to the floor and using your left hand to press toes towards the ground, gently stretching across the top of the foot.

half split 2


Hold for 30-60 seconds and then slowly switch legs to repeat full series from the hip flexor stretch on the opposite side.

Half Pigeon

Lie face up with the knees bent and feet flat. Bend your right knee and cross the right ankle over the left thigh, opening the right knee out to the side as much as possible.

half pigeon 1

If your hips are very tight, hold this position. If you are able, lift the left foot off the floor and draw your knees in towards the chest, reaching under the left thigh to pull your legs in closer towards the body.

half pigeon 2

If you want to deepen the stretch even further, try placing your hands on top of the left shin. Hold for 30-60 seconds, breathing deeply; repeat on opposite side.

All photos by: Vanessa Rogers Photography

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