Yoga for Hamstring flexibility

Hamstrings are the group of 3 muscles that run along the backside of the thighs connecting the pelvis to the knee. These muscles are used to flex the knees and extend the hips and are regularly used in our day-to-day life activities like walking, running, climbing stairs, jumping, squatting, coming up standing from a sitting position etc.

The tight hamstring is a common complaint these days and it usually occurs due to nonactivity, repetitive movement or poor posture. Some of the common examples are marathon runners who don’t regularly stretch their hamstrings and suffer from a hamstring pull, a non-active person who spends most of his/her time sitting and working will have tight hamstrings which will further lead to back pain or sciatica.

Yoga is to create space in the body and in some postures, it allows the muscles to get some deeply relaxed stretches. Apart from very common postures like Adhomukhasvanasan (downward-facing dog) and Utanasana (Full forward fold), below are some more postures which one should keep practicing to release and relax the tight hamstrings

Parshvottanasa

  • Stand straight with feet together in Samasthiti
  • Join the palms in namaskar mudra behind your back in between the shoulder blades and reach as high as possible. If this is difficult, then below are the other options:
    • Make a fist with both hands and join them behind your back OR
    • Grab your elbows with an opposite hand behind your back OR
    • Interlace your fingers behind your back and straighten the elbows

The goal is to expand your chest

  • Swing the right leg back, turn the right toes out and left toes in and face the backside of the mat.
  • Make sure our hips are squared and facing straight in front of you. So keep space between both the legs, the right toe should face forward and the left toe should face the top left corner of the mat which will help to square the hips.
  • Inhale take a deep breath expand your chest up
  • Exhale a slight twist on the right side and fall forward on the right leg. Try to touch your belly to the thigh, chest to the knee and chin to the shin. Gaze at the right big toe. Stay here for 5 to 8 long breaths.
  • If you are not able to do a full forward fold with an expanded chest, then fold halfway down and stay there as it will give the same amount of stretch.
  • Keep the right knee very lightly bent in order to avoid hyperextension of the knee.
  • Make sure both the legs are active by pulling both of them towards each other without moving them. This will also help in getting better balance.
  • Keep pressing the palm or fist behind your back so your chest is open.
  • Inhale bend the right knee and lift yourself all the way up. Stay in the position and turn yourself to the front side of the mat by turning your left toe out and right toe in.
  • Repeat the same from the left side and then come back to Samasthiti

Paschimotanasana

  • Sit with legs straight in front of you and back upright also called as Dandasana or staff pose.
  • Inhale raise your chest up hands over your head and parallel to each other
  • Exhale bring your hands to your feet and grab your big toes with your first three fingers. If you are not able to reach the big toes then bend your knees.
  • Inhale tuck your tailbone in, raise your head and chest up
  • Exhale fall forward belly and chest on the thigh, chin to the knee and gaze at the big toe. Your elbows should bend outside of your knees. Stay here for good 8 to 10 breaths
  • If your knees are bent, try to straighten them to your best capacity.
  • If your knees are straight then point your toes, go deeper and then flex your toes to feel the deep hamstring stretch
  • Beginners can hook the strap around the feet soles and grab the strap with your hand
  • Try to tuck your tailbone in but without hunching your upper back, so the lower back is not compressed and the core is also engaged.
  • Inhale come back to the seated staff pose of Dandasana

Supta padangustasana

  • Lie on your back hands by your thighs and legs straight
  • Inhale raise your leg at 90 degree and grab the right toe with first three fingers. Below are the options:
    • Directly raise the right leg up straight and grab the toe with fingers
    • Bend the right leg at the knee and bring it close to chest. Now grab the toe with fingers and straighten the leg
    • Loop a strap around the right leg sole and grab the strap with right hand

Point the toe forward and pull them back at the same time using right arm strength to have a strong grip

  • Press the left palm on left hips to ensure the left hip is not lifted
  • Exhale lift your shoulders off the floor and try to pull the right leg towards you and touch the chin to the knee. Stay here for 5- 6 long breaths
  • Inhale rest your forehead and shoulders back to the floor and take the right leg to the right side but make sure the left hip is still pressed down with left palm. Gaze to the left shoulder.
  • Exhale bring the right leg back up at 90 degree, hold the heel of right feet with both hands, lift your shoulders off the floor and try to touch your belly and chest to the right thigh and chin to the shin
  • Inhale release the leg all the way down
  • Repeat the same on the left side

Improving hamstring flexibility is a gradual process and should be taken slowly, as forcing may lead to muscle tear which is the last thing that anyone may want. So use the props to take support, do passive stretching wherever required and slowly work on improving the flexibility of the muscle

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