Butterfly Pose

written by
Joel Runyon
last updated
October 6, 2021

Some poses feel quite foreign when first starting a stretching routine. But for anyone who has ever taken a gym class, group fitness class, or worked with a personal trainer, this butterfly pose might be more familiar than the rest. I have vivid memories of having to do this stretch as we warmed up for Little League. I think it stuck with me because, while leading the warm up routine, our coach would tell us to flap our legs up and down like the wings of a butterfly. It is funny how things like that stick with you after all of these years. 

And, while we promise that you do not have to flap your legs up and down like that if you do not want to, we still think that the butterfly stretch is a stretch that should make into your stretching routine quite regularly. It requires no equipment - just your own bodyweight - and can be modified to make it less intense or a deeper stretch depending on your needs. You can stay upright and focus on perfecting your posture while opening the hips or turn it into a forward fold. You can make this into a twisting pose or lie back in a reclined position. 

No matter what you choose to do, the butterfly pose is accessible for almost anyone! Let’s dive deeper into the points of performance for this pose, the benefits your body will receive when you regularly do it, and the different modifications you can use. 

What is the Butterfly Pose? 

The butterfly pose is a beginner-level pose that can be easily modified to fit your current ability level. At its core, it is a seated hip opening stretch that can be implemented into your daily stretching routine quite easily. 

To perform this stretch, you will come to sit on the floor. Press the soles of your feet together so that your knees are bent and pointing off to either side away from each other. From here, place your hands on your ankles, toes, or feet for leverage. 

With a big inhale, sit up straight and pull your shoulder blades back and down. This should naturally allow your shoulders to pull away from your ears, relaxing any tension that you might have unknowingly held in your trapezius muscles. 

On an exhale, begin to fold your torso over your legs. Depending on your flexibility level, you may be able to bring your torso all the way down to rest on your legs. If you are not quite there yet, go as far as you can to feel a stretch in your hips. We recommend holding this pose for at least 30 seconds. 

Be sure to breathe deeply as you hold this position.  With each inhale, you can think about lengthening the spine or expanding the body. With each exhale, try to sink deeper into the pose. It is very important that you sync up with your breath and use it as a guide. 

Butterfly Pose Benefits

This seated pose is a hip opener. If you have tight hips from working out or just sitting all day, this pose can benefit you. Specifically, this pose positively affects the groin, inner thigh muscles, and the knees. Not only will this help increase flexibility in your hips, but it can also help loosen up your lower back. 

Because this stretch requires you to sit up straight with good posture, it can help tone the back muscles. Combined with a well-structured workout routine, this stretch could positively impact your daily posture. 

Improving flexibility in your hips and loosening up your back will not only make your workout sessions better, but it will surely increase your quality of life as well. For anyone who has struggled with tight hips or lower back pain, it sure can put a damper on the way you move throughout the day. This is why we recommend doing this stretch daily. It is simple to do and requires no extra equipment. You can even do it in between work meetings or as a cool down after your workout. 

Butterfly Pose Modifications

As it is written, this pose incorporates a forward fold. If you do not yet have the flexibility in your hips to bring your torso over your legs, we recommend holding this pose and keeping your chest upright. This would be one modification to help open the hips and slowly increase your flexibility in these muscles. If sitting up straight while holding this position feels too challenging, place your back against a wall and use the wall as a support. 

As you build up your flexibility, you can start to bring your chest lower over your legs. We always recommend taking this slowly, though, as it is not worth it to push too far and strain your muscles. 

If you are starting to incorporate that forward fold into the butterfly stretch, you have the option to elevate your hands using a yoga block, stack of books, or any sturdy object that is around the height that you require. This may help you relax into the pose with the fold without straining any muscle too much. If you ever feel any sort of pain while holding the butterfly stretch, come out of the pose immediately. It should feel like a big stretch, that’s for sure, but it should never be painful.


butterfly pose demo

Starting in a seated position, place the soles of the feet together. Allow the knees to fall away from each other and grab onto the (ankle, toes, feet). Sit upright, take a deep breath and slowly pull yourself over the legs.

written by
Joel Runyon

Joel is the founder of IMPOSSIBLE and the founder of MoveWell. Joel founded MoveWell after sustaining an injury while running an ultra marathon on every continent. Joel is writes about mobility, pain management and health and wellness overall.

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