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Advanced Stretching Routine

Deeper Stretches for Greater Flexibility
  -- By Nicole Nichols, Fitness Instructor
When you stretch regularly, you will become more flexible and better able to handle more involved, complex stretches. This flexibility routine includes more advanced stretches, so make sure you've mastered the basics before trying these moves. Remember to warm up first and never stretch to the point of pain. Know your body's limits. For more stretching tips and guidelines, refer to our Reference Guide to Stretching.

Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds, repeating two or three times, depending on how you feel. For detailed instructions and larger photos, click on the name of each stretch.

Triangle Pose
Stand tall with back straight, feet wider than the hips, and arms in line with the shoulders (like a "T"), palms down. Turn your right toes out to the side and your left toes pointed forward. Lean to the right as if reaching your right fingertips toward the right wall. From there, bend at the side of the waist, allowing your right hand to fall naturally, resting on your knee, shin, ankle or the floor. Breathe deeply and hold. Repeat on opposite side.

Wide-Leg Advanced Forward Bend
Stand tall with back straight, feet wider than the hips, toes turned out, abs engaged and arms at your sides. Keeping the legs straight and the abs engaged, slowly bend forward from the waist until you fingertips reach the floor--ideally, with your back in a flat position. From there, stretch deeper, as if your body is folding in half at the waist, allowing your elbows to bend and your head to relax toward the floor beneath you. Breathe deeply and hold.

Seated Cross-Legged Forward Bend
Sit tall with back straight and legs crossed naturally in front of you. Place your palms on the floor in front of your legs. Allow the spine to curve naturally as you walk your hands forward, relaxing the head and neck. Relax the shoulders down. Breathe deeply and hold.

Seated Advanced Hurdler Stretch
Sit tall with your back straight, shoulders down, abs engaged, and legs extended like a "V" in front of you. Bend your left knee, placing the sole of your foot next to your inner right thigh. Rotate your torso to face your right leg. Bend forward from the waist, reaching your hands toward your toes. Allow your torso to collapse over your leg. Breathe deeply and hold. Repeat on opposite side.

Side Mermaid Stretch
Sit on the floor, both knees bent, with your left leg in front and your right leg behind you. Lengthen your spine and place your fingertips on the floor at your sides. Lift your left arm up in line with the shoulder as your bend laterally toward the right side as if bringing your right shoulder toward your right hip. Breathe deeply and hold.

Upward Dog
Lie flat on your stomach with your legs extended. Place the palms of your hands directly under the shoulders, fingertips pointing forward. Slowly straighten your arms, pushing your chest and torso away from the floor beneath you. Relax your abdominals and pull the shoulders away from the ears. Look slightly upward toward the ceiling. Breathe deeply and hold.