Hamstrings, such a common part of the body the everyone struggles with. I think I was naturally born with short hamstrings. I have never been flexible and my genetic make up is naturally fairly muscular and I often wonder if this hinders my own flexibility slightly. I have been practicing yoga for almost 4 years now and I still to this day am unable to comfortably straighten my legs. You may be a runner? Maybe you lift weights, you cycle, you hike, you sit at a desk all day? Maybe you do none of those things. Flexibility doesn’t happen over night, trust in the process and below are a few poses that are great for hamstring flexibility. You don’t have to be practicing yoga to try these either, these are amazing stretches for day to day life.
Image on left – Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Stand with the feet hip width apart and let the hips hinge into the forward fold. If you’re living in a tighter body, take a bend in the knees. No worries if you’re hands can’t reach the floor as blocks are a great tool to help, or if no blocks to hands a hefty book on its side is great (careful of your feet)
Image on the right – Modified Triangle Pose
Standing with feet wrists width apart, left foot at a 45 degree angle, front foot facing forward and both legs straight. Don’t lock out the knee in the front leg, nice and soft. Hinge the trunk of your body forward over the front leg, keep the body nice and straight. Again using a block/book if needed. Repeat this on both sides.
Image on the left – Seated Forward Fold (Pashimottanasana)
A classic seated posture used not just in yoga but everyday. The one of the most common for tight hamstrings. If your hamstrings are slightly tighter like mine, be sure to sit upon a block to give the pelvis more and hip flexors more space to move. As you inhale draw tall through the torso, then exhale as you fold forward into the stretch. If you can’t touch your toes, don’t worry, a strap or an old belt round the feet can help you deepen the stretch.
Image in the middle – Wide Leg Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana)
A lovely asana, taking the feet wide making sure to keep the knees soft, hinging forward from the hips as you exhale. Again, don’t forget to use a book or block if your hands don’t quite reach. It may look like my head is on the floor, it isn’t. As your own flexibility increases and you are strengthening the muscles needed for this pose the stance will become deeper and you may be able to reach your head to the floor. This isn’t the aim, just the suggestion its going there.
Image on the right – Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Downward facing dog doesn’t just stretch out the hamstrings, it also draws focus to the calves, the ankles, the spine and the shoulders. Really a whole body experience. Here are a few pointers to help. Wrists are placed directly under the shoulders, feet hip-width apart, spread and ground down through the fingers and draw the heels down towards to mat. The heels do not need to be on the mat. Take a bend in the knees if you’re a little tight, as this will help you to find more length in the spine. This really helped me as for a long time I was going downward dog in a way that actually hindered my progress. From here we can then look at drawing the shoulder blades down the back, rotating the sit bones up towards the sky and soften the ribs. Focus on the basics, really spread the finger and push into the hands. Take the dog for a walk by moving pushing into the feet and legs, one leg at a time. Hold for 5-10 breaths and try and enjoy being here.
I hope this helps a little, sometimes taking it back to the basics to focus on the actual muscle group is more functional for you and your body than jumping in straight away. Please don’t lose heart if you can’t touch your toes to begin with. It’s all a process, and enjoy it! Nothing ever comes easy, unless you are a contortionist!
Love and Light as always,