Many of us have very tight hamstrings. For athletes, especially runners, the hamstrings get tight as they’re used during workouts. Hamstrings can also tighten up from sitting all day, which many people do in this technology-oriented world. Doing some yoga for hamstrings poses can help you loosen the hamstrings, allowing better range of motion and comfort.
For you yogis, flexible hamstrings will also let you work on more advanced poses like hanumanasana (splits). To help you lengthen your hamstrings, I’ve compiled my favorite hamstring stretches. In all of these poses, be sure to engage your quads so you don’t lock and/or hyperextend your knees. For all hamstring stretches, be sure you’re feeling a nice, comfortable stretch in the belly of the muscle, its widest part.
The forward fold is probably the best known yoga pose to stretch the hamstrings. I often start my post-run stretching with this pose because it’s a nice way to relax after working hard. In the forward fold you should try to keep your back straight and pull your chest toward your legs—don’t curl your back over and just try to get your nose to your legs. To modify for tight hamstrings, bend your knees more and place a yoga block or other firm object beneath your hands.
This hamstring stretch is similar to forward fold but is a little less intense on the hamstrings. Again, it’s important to keep a flat back and lead with your chest to get the most out of this pose. To modify for tight hamstrings, place a block, chair, or some other firm object under your hands or arms so you don’t fold as deeply.
This forward bend is also a well-known hamstring stretch. As in the other hamstring stretches, be sure to lead with your chest when folding in. To modify for tight hamstrings, keep a bend in the knee and don’t fold over as deeply.
Pyramid pose is probably my favorite hamstring stretch. Make sure that your hips are facing squarely forward before you fold to make sure that you’re getting the most out of the pose. To modify for tight hamstrings, step the back foot in closer to the front foot to shorten your stance. You can keep a bend in the front knee and you can also place something firm like a yoga block under your hands to make the pose a little easier.
This hamstring stretch can get deep into the muscle. You can use a yoga strap if you have one, if not, use a similar object like a belt. If you’re very flexible, you can grab around the big toe with your thumb, index, and middle fingers and pull from your hand. Be sure to keep your bottom foot flexed and keep that leg active and keep your back on the floor. To modify for tight hamstrings, bend the knee of the stretched leg slightly, or don’t pull the leg as close to the torso.
Contributed by Dr. Beth Brombosz at sublimelyfit.com