IF YOU'VE GOT TIGHT HAMMIES - YOU'RE IN THE RIGHT PLACE!
As a yoga studio owner, I wish I had a dollar for every time someone told me they had tight hamstrings and it might surprise you to know that hamstring flexibility is something that I struggle to maintain.
Give me a handstands (so much fun!) and backbends (so energising) over painful hamstring stretches any day! I put on muscle mass easily and do well with strength based poses, but maintaining flexibility is not something that comes easily at all. Even coming from a dance background - my hammies are very stubborn and it takes a lot of work to keep them feeling stretched out. So believe me when I say I KNOW!
In this blog post with the help of my partner (and anatomy nerd) Exercise Physiologist, Russ Young, we're going to show you 7 Simple Yoga Stretches to Tame Tight Hamstrings. You can either follow along with the pictures (pin it if you're on pinterest to come back to later) or if you're really serious, then I recommend you join our simple online course to get you started with a home practice "Press Pause - 5 Easy Practices for Better Sleep, Focus & Flexibility".
LET'S LOOK AT THE ANATOMY OF THE HAMSTRINGS
The Hamstrings consist of a group of 3 muscles at the back of the thigh.
Biceps Femoris (located at the back of the leg on the outside)
Semitendinosus (located at the back on the leg on the inside)
Semimembranosus (located at the back of the leg on the inside)
WHAT DO THE HAMSTRINGS DO?
The hamstrings are responsible for flexion at the knee joint (bending the knee) and extension of the thigh (moving the upper thigh backwards).
The hamstrings also can contribute to the range of motion possible regarding the anterior and posterior tilt of the pelvis.
When the hamstrings are very tight, there is often a tendency to tuck the tailbone too much leading to a reduction or removal in the natural curve of your lower back.
DO YOU HAVE TIGHT HAMSTRINGS?
You can quickly test your hamstring flexibility by standing up with your feet hip width apart & folding forward to touch your shins or toes.
Stand side on to a mirror. As you fold forward, try to flatten your lower back out (by sticking your butt back and lifting your tailbone).
If your posture is really rounded in the lower back and you are unable to reach below the shins by keeping a flat back then chances are your hamstrings are tight.
WHY ARE TIGHT HAMSTRINGS A PROBLEM?
Tight hamstrings can lead to a decrease in the natural lumber curve of the spine.
Over time, this can cause pressure on the discs in your lower back which may lead to subluxation or a ‘bulging disc’.
In this blog post we’ll be sharing strategies from our experience from a combined 30+ years in yoga, exercise physiology & teaching beginners.
TYPES OF HAMSTRING PAIN & TIGHTNESS...
Because the hamstrings are relatively long it is possible to experience different types of tightness or tenderness in various parts of the muscle. Knowing what kind of tightness or tenderness you have is crucial as sometimes what you think is tightness might actually be a sign of injury and needs a different approach (rest and strengthening vs stretching).
If your hamstrings are tight in the belly of the muscle, or lower down the leg and it eases off as you breathe and hold the stretch, this usually indicates general tightness.
Beginners, those new to yoga, those who train a lot, and those who have week abdominals will usually experience this kind of hamstring tightness.
YOGA BUTT + HAMSTRING STRAIN
If you have any of the following symptoms - it is possible you have a strain
- There is acute pain up and underneath your butt cheek at the sitting bone (ischial tuberosity)
- Stretching feels more painful as you deepen the stretch and when you lift your tailbone
- You can pinpoint a small area up under the butt cheek where there is pain
- Your butt or upper inner thigh continues to hurt or ache AFTER the stretch
- The pain is getting progressively worse when you stretch
- There is pain when you sit for long periods of time
This type of injury can be common in those who have been practicing yoga for a while, or started rigorously after a long break and is indicative of an injury at the origin of the hamstring where it joins the pelvis.
This type of injury most commonly happens when there is a focus on a lot of forward bends without sufficient strengthening or warm up (eg: ashtanga yoga students often suffer from this type of injury). This is known as ‘yoga butt’ and definitely not a fun injury to deal with. It can also sometimes feel like you need to stretch it out - but you’ll notice that after stretching it continues to ache and eventually gets more and more painful.
If you suspect you have a strain, it is crucial to ease off all forward bends and seek a diagnosis and treatment which will usually involve rest and strength work.
7 SIMPLE STRETCHES TO TAME TIGHT HAMSTRINGS
- Warm up first with a few sun salutations or if you are completely new to yoga - you can even do these stretches after a 5-10min walk.
- Hold each pose for 5-15 breaths focusing on deepening the posture as you exhale.
- Try to drag the heel of your front leg back as you stretch - this will help activate the muscle.
- Remember to work within your body's comfortable limits - never straining.
- The first pose is a strengthening pose for the upper hamstrings. The subsequent postures are designed to help improve hamstring flexibility.
1. Bridge Preparation (Setu Bandhasana)
2. Standing Forward Bend with Blocks (Uttanasana)
3. Kneeling Hamstring Lunge
4. Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
5. Head to Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana)
6. Sitting Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
7. Supine Leg Extension (Supta Uttita Hasta Padangustasana)
SHARE THE LOVE!
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NOW IT'S YOUR TURN - LEAVE US A COMMENT!
Now over to you....
We'd love you to leave us a comment below and let us know what your tight spots are? Hamstrings? Shoulders? Neck? Somewhere different?
What poses are you working on this year to overcome those tight spots?