How to have amazing flexible hamstrings

Tight hamstrings can contribute to problems with the low back, hips, and knees.  They can also be a source of huge frustration for yoga practitioners as elements of your practice may feel restricted, particularly forward bends, inversions and some standing poses.  The tightness of the hamstrings will in turn limit the hips, tightening the low back…and so on.

Hamstrings can be challenging for the flexible yogi too…if you never feel much of a stretch in the belly of the hamstring (centre of the back of the thigh) when forward bending, it might be time to look at why.  Those who are naturally flexible don’t always engage the leg muscles correctly – they may find forward bends ‘easy’ and tend to ‘hangout’ here.  This results in over-stretching the part of the hamstring that attaches to the sit-bone, causing pain and eventual injury….if you’ve ever felt pain right up in your butt cheek when forward  bending, this applies to you!

Come along to my hips and hamstrings workshop, suitable for all levels on Saturday 23rd of May, and we will go through all these steps to help your flexibility and strength.[sc:clear ]

Tips for effective hamstring stretching and hip opening :

  • Make sure you warm up properly – ankles, hips, shoulders and spine.
  • Don’t lock your knees…this will disengage your leg muscles and may cause injury.  Flexible people take note!
  • If your hamstrings are very tight keep your knees bent and feet hip width apart in forward bends.  This keeps space in the hips and low back.
  • In forward bends, start with a deep bend in the knees, feet hip width apart and press into the feet…heel, big toe mound, little toe mound.  Have a sense of the top of the shin moving firmly into the heel.  Squeeze the front of the thighs and maybe even squeeze the glutes a little.  Feel the work coming from the hip, through the thigh, into the shin and down into the foot.  The whole leg is engaged.  As the muscles activate, the legs will begin to straighten, opening the hamstrings (you can do this in seated, standing or supine poses).
  • In paschimottanasana, janu sirsasana use a belt around the feet and keep the spine long as you bend forward with the legs activated and the feet flexed.    Bend your elbows out to the side to avoid pulling on the feet and to keep the shoulders open.
  • Forward bends are not about getting your head to your shins – change your mindset and make this about keeping the spine long and opening the hamstrings and the hips.
  • Poses for stretching the hamstrings and opening the hips – supta padangusthasana, uttanasana, paschimottanasana, upavistha konasana, janu sirsasana.
  • If you have low back problems, please keep your knees bent and your legs active.
  • Hamstring stretches are also hip openers…2 birds with one stone!
  • Try to be patient and practice ahimsa (non violence) towards yourself.  Your hamstrings will open with practice…forcing this will only cause frustration and possible injury.  The degree to which the body ‘opens’ is different for everyone and happens over time so patience and gentleness are required….with the body and the mind…they’re all connected.

Thanks for reading, hope to see you on the mat at the workshop.

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