Tight hamstrings are a source of frustration for many yoga practitioners.
When the hamstrings aren’t experiencing a full range of motion, there’s a reciprocal effect on the pelvis and hip flexors, resulting in lower back and knee pain. They are also responsible for poor posture and sacroiliac joint pain.
So let’s keep are hamstrings healthy!
Hop on your mat and practice these poses. They target the hamstrings, and also increase flexibility in the back and hips.
(Standing Forward Bend)
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lengthen the front of your body and bend forward at the hips and place your hands on either side of your feet (or hold onto your opposite elbows). With each inhalation, lengthen the front of your spine. With each exhalation, fold more deeply. Hold for 4-5 breaths. As long as the pose is not hurting you, experiencing a stretch is fine and natural.
(Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose)
Lie on your back with your legs extended. Bending your right leg, place a strap around your right foot and grasp one end with each hand. Keep your left extended on the floor. Then on an inhalation, straighten your right leg up toward the ceiling. Extend through both heels. If you feel your hamstrings softening after a few breaths, try to draw the foot a little closer to your head. Hold this pose for 1 to 3 minutes, then bring the right leg down. Repeat on the other side.
(Variation of Wide Angle Standing Forward Bend)
Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), and then step your feet about 3 to 4 feet apart with your toes pointing straight ahead. Keeping your legs straight, fold forward from your hips, bringing your hands directly underneath your shoulders, to the floor (or blocks). Press evenly through your feet and arms. Lengthen your front body, reach your sternum forward. As you deepen the stretch in the hamstrings, keep the hamstrings fully engaged. Check with your lower back. This is a great stretch for the back and hamstrings. Hold for 4-5 breaths. When done, bend both legs and slowly squiggle your feet together and come to Tadasana (Mountain Pose).
(Side Stretch Pose)
Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), and then step your feet about 3 feet apart. Turn your left foot in about 60 degrees and your right foot out about about 90 degrees. Turn to square your hips towards your right leg, lengthen the front of your torso, and slowly bend toward your right leg. If the hamstrings are tight, be gentle with yourself and place your hands on blocks. Stay here for 4-5 breaths. Repeat with the left leg being in front.