You Should Hold These Yoga Stretches For 30 Seconds—Here's Why

Whether your hamstrings are sore after a run or your lower back is tight from sitting at your desk all day, pulling out a mat—and setting aside less than 20 minutes—could give your muscles and joints the relief they need. Plus, yoga stretches can help you increase your flexibility and range of motion (ROM) from head to toe, says Edie Shipler, yoga instructor at New Love City.

In yoga, there are both static and dynamic stretches. The main goal of any type of static stretching (holding one position) is to stay in it long enough for your brain to send a message to your muscles that it's okay to loosen up. It takes at least 30 seconds for them to get this memo, so you’ll want to stay in each pose for at least that long (but no longer than a minute) to get the full effect. That being said, making a pose more dynamic by adding some movement is a great way to help you increase your ROM, especially if you’re having a tough time getting deep into a particular position.

Meet the experts: Edie Shipler has a masters in applied exercise physiology and is a yoga instructor at New Love City. Shweta Jain is a yoga instructor at MyYogaTeacher. Eve Lynn Chrust, is a yoga instructor at Obé Fitness Yoga.

Yoga is also much more than a physical activity. While it improves your flexibility and posture, according to Shweta Jain, a yoga instructor at MyYogaTeacher, yoga is also a deeply spiritual practice with mental health benefits. A major component to a yoga practice is breathwork, or pranayama, which has both spiritual and physiological reasons, says Shipler. Inhaling and exhaling at the right time while you’re in a posture controls where energy should flow during each pose, she says, and it also helps you really get in a good stretch.

Ahead, 21 yoga stretches (plus, how to breathe through them) to improve your flexibility and overall well-being.

Time: Less than 20 minutes | Equipment: Yoga mat | Good for: Flexibility

Instructions: Follow the flow demonstrated by Eve Lynn Chrust, a yoga instructor at Obé Fitness Yoga, below, holding each pose for 30 seconds. There are a few challenge poses that you can work your way up to over time, or skip completely. Your practice is unique to you—follow your body's cues!

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