If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, then you know that it can be a humbling experience. The downward dog isn’t as easy as you thought, it’s more challenging than you ever imagined to sit still and quiet the mind, and most of all, you’re not as flexible as you once were (at not nearly as bendable as that gorgeous yogi sitting in the front row!)

Do you have to attain the flexibility of a human pretzel? No, but when you consciously work on increasing your flexibility, it can offer some wonderful health benefits—making it well worth your effort. Does correcting your poor posture sound good? How about eliminating pain from your joints?

And according to one 2009 study done on the effects of a consistent stretching session, increasing your flexibility can actually help you prevent injuries. Achieve better balance, better coordination and a better life, and this article will show you the way!

From yoga to your own customized stretching program, the way to a stronger body and flexible mind starts right here—so keep reading for the best three ways to add some to your life today!

Pre-Stretch Rules to Live By

Whether you’re 20, 40 or 60 years of age, preparation before any workout (even these slow paced stretching exercises) require some form of workout to get your body warmed up, primed and ready. So, in order to expedite a body ready to do the splits, tweak your diet. Stay hydrated by starting each morning, ending each night and throughout by drinking water. Focus on clean eating (this is the perfect time to eliminate processed foods from your diet!) and eat small, frequent meals throughout your day.

Stretching first thing in the morning is a great way to start your day, but be careful. Stretch slowly, and make sure not to ‘spring back’ your muscles by stretching in a quick, jumpy pattern. Your muscles and joints need their time waking up as much as you do!

The Butterfly Stretch

Sit like a butterfly once a day, and you’ll wipe limited mobility away! The butterfly stretch is easy, and it’ll probably bring back a memory of being a child, sitting on the grass at a park and ‘fluttering your pretend wings’, while laughing with your peers. But as silly as it felt then, and may feel today—it’s extremely helpful to increase flexibility.

Sit on the ground, with your heels pressed together, your knees facing outwards, and your back straight. Keeping your posture straight, slowly begin to bounce your knees up and down, and alternate that motion with pressing your knees down towards the ground, as far as they will go. Repeat daily.

Take a Yoga Class

If you’ve never tried yoga before, you may have started to wonder what you’re missing. What’s that yoga craze about, anyways? Increase your flexibility through a yoga class, and you may never go back to a yoga-less life—it has everything you need to succeed at achieving a limber body, a lean frame and a happy mood, so take a beginner’s class and have the courage to sit in the front row (you’ll get more instruction there!)

The Advanced Cat Stretch

Experienced in the classic cat stretch or not, this move with boost flexibility quickly and efficiently. As a bonus, this move isn’t just great to start your day off with, but is a smart move to do anytime you’re under a lot of stress—since many of us hold stress in the back, this back-specific stretch is a great release!

Start this pose by getting on your knees, and with your palms firmly on the floor, curl your spine up to the ceiling (as a cat does when spooked), but in a slow manner. When you’ve lifted your back as far as you can go, hold this pose for three seconds. Then, lift your head up and stretch your neck. Slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position and repeat. This time, instead of lowering yourself back down, move your arms further away from your body and give yourself an extra stretch your entire body will thank you for!

Gaining flexibility isn’t just good for you—it feels good. So incorporate the above in your weekly workout and have not only a stronger body, but one that you will feel connected to.  Take care of your body, and it will take care of you!