How to Do the Butterfly Stretch

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Woman sitting on yoga mat doing butterfly stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Also Known As: Seated groin and inner thigh stretch, seated butterfly stretch

Targets: Inner thighs, groin, hips, lower back

Level: Beginner

The butterfly stretch is a seated groin and inner thigh stretch that targets those areas. It is a great stretch for athletes who play field or court sports, runners, and anyone who has tight hips or a history of groin injuries. It is also a preparatory stretch to get you flexible enough to do splits. You can do this stretch after a lower body workout or an activity such as running.


The butterfly stretch improves flexibility of the inner thigh adductor muscles. These muscles are used to draw your legs together. They help you maintain stability and balance. The butterfly stretch also opens the hips, which can become tight from sitting for long periods. This stretch is appropriate for pregnant women.


Watch Now: How to Do the Butterfly Inner Thigh Stretch

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Sit down on the floor or ground with your legs in front of you.
  2. Reach forward and grab your right foot. It is OK to bend your knee to help your hand and foot connect. Gently pull your right foot up towards your groin bending until it is at a comfortable spot and the sole of the foot is facing your left thigh.
  3. Bend your left knee to bring your left foot toward your groin so that its sole touches the sole of your right foot.
  4. Hold your feet with your hands and rest your elbows on your knees.
  5. While keeping your back straight (no slouching), allow your knees to fall towards the ground. You can apply gentle pressure on the inner thigh by pressing gently on the knees with the elbows. You should feel gentle pulling and tension in the groin.
  6. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.
  7. Release and repeat three times.

Common Mistakes

Just as you can get injured doing sports and activities, you can also hurt yourself while stretching if certain precautions are not taken.


Bouncing in your stretch can tug on tendons and muscle insertion points instead lengthening the muscle. Bouncing defeats the purpose of the stretch, which is to lengthen and relax the muscles in order to improve the flexibility of the adductors. Use slow, smooth movements when performing your stretch.

Pressing Down Forcefully

Do not press down with great force. Just like bouncing, this can put unwanted pressure on the tendons, ligaments, and insertion points—thus making you more prone to injury or overstretching.

Holding Your Breath

Do not hold your breath while stretching. As yoga teaches, the breath can help you stretch deeper. Inhale as you rest and exhale as you initially do the work.

Modifications and Variations

This stretch can be done in different ways to meet your needs.

Need a Modification?

If you have lower back issues, be sure that you are not rounding your lower back. Instead, lean forward from your hips.

If you want less stress on your knees, place your feet farther from your body. You could also place a blanket under the outer thighs for support.

You may also start with half butterfly stretch. Keep one leg extended while drawing just one foot at a time towards your groin for the stretch.

Up for a Challenge?

The first thing you can do to get more of a stretch from the butterfly is to bring the feet closer in towards your groin.

As you become more flexible, you can get a deeper stretch of the hips and back by leaning forward at the waist. Exhale and lean forward, keeping your back flat and allowing your chest to fall as close to the floor as possible.

For an advanced stretch, place a yoga block or some books under your feet to lift them up, and use the forward bend, leaning from the waist.

Safety and Precautions

You will feel a stretch in your muscles, but you should not feel any pain (discomfort is normal and okay; just not pain). If you do feel pain, release the stretch. If you have had a knee or groin injury, talk to your doctor or physical therapist about whether you should do this stretch.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

1 Source
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Tyler TF, Silvers HJ, Gerhardt MB, Nicholas SJ. Groin injuries in sports medicineSports Health. 2010;2(3):231–236. doi:10.1177/1941738110366820

By Elizabeth Quinn, MS
Elizabeth Quinn is an exercise physiologist, sports medicine writer, and fitness consultant for corporate wellness and rehabilitation clinics.