30 Nov, 2020
Some exercises like running, engage the hamstrings in a way that can cause them to become tight. Pretty soon, it develops into a backache or sciatica, both of which are often related to tight hamstrings. Regular stretching, dance and gymnastics since childhood helps, but most people don’t do it enough during their adulthood, to maintain the flexibility of hamstrings. By the time adulthood rolls around, you end up having a sedentary lifestyle, which can lead to hamstring tightness. Ayush Kumar, a Yoga expert, discusses Yoga Asanas for flexible hamstrings.
A strap is a useful prop for anyone with tight hamstrings. Using the strap, to close the distance between your hand and your foot in this pose, for instance, allows you to straighten your legs, and get the full benefits of the stretch. If you don’t have an official yoga strap, don’t worry. Any belt, scarf, or towel will work. Lie on the floor and stretch your legs. If your head does not rest comfortably on the floor, support it on a folded blanket. Exhale, bend the left knee and draw the thigh into your torso. Hug the thigh to your belly. Press the front of the right thigh heavily to the floor, and push actively through the right heel. Loop a strap around the arch of the left foot and hold the strap in both the hands. Inhale and straighten the knee, pressing the left heel up toward the ceiling. Walk your hands up the strap until the elbows are fully extended. Broaden the shoulder blades across your back. Keeping the hands as high on the strap as possible, press the shoulder blades lightly onto the floor. Widen the collarbones away from the sternum. Extend up first through the back of the left heel, lift through the ball of the big toe. Begin with the raised leg perpendicular to the floor. Release the head of the thigh bone more deeply into the pelvis and, as you do, draw the foot a little closer to your head, increasing the stretch on the back of the leg. You can stay here in this stretch, or turn the leg outward from the hip joint, so the knee and toes look to the left. Pinning the top of the right thigh to the floor, exhale and swing the left leg out and hold it a few inches off the floor. Continue rotating the leg. As you feel the outer thigh move away from the left side of the torso, try to bring the left foot in alignment with the left shoulder joint. Inhale to bring the leg back to vertical. Lighten your grip on the strap as you do, so that you challenge the muscles of the inner thigh and hip to do the work. Hold the vertical position of the leg for 1 to 3 minutes, and the side position for an equal length of time. Once you have returned to vertical, release the strap, hold the leg in place for 30 seconds or so, then slowly release as you exhale. Repeat on the right for the same length of time.
Standing forward bends are a good way to deepen your hamstring stretch. However, some people with back pain find spinal flexion uncomfortable, so lying on the back might be a better option. Try to keep your legs as straight as possible and let your hands dangle or place blocks under them, if they don’t reach the floor. Another option for a standing forward fold is to take your legs out wide. A common mistake in this pose is to take the legs too far apart in an effort to get your head closer to the floor. Keeping the legs at about a 90-degree angle allows for a good hamstring stretch and is a safer position for the hip joints. It is generally easier to get your hands to the floor in this position, but you can still use blocks if necessary. For full hamstring effects, concentrate on keeping your weight in the balls of your feet, just as much as in the heels.
Stand in Tadasana. Exhale, step or lightly jump your feet 3½ to 4 feet apart. Rest your hands on your hips. Turn your left foot in 45 to 60 degrees to the right and your right foot out to the right 90 degrees. Align the right heel with the left heel. Firm your thighs and turn your right thigh outward, so that the centre of the right knee cap is in line with the centre of the right ankle. Exhale and rotate your torso to the right, squaring the front of your pelvis, as much as possible with the front edge of your mat. As the left hip point turns forward, press the head of the left femur back to ground the back heel. Press your outer thighs inward, as if squeezing a block between your thighs. Exhale and lean the torso forward from the groin over the right leg. Stop when the torso is parallel to the floor. Press your fingertips to the floor on either side of the right foot. If it is not possible for you to touch the floor, support your hands on a pair of blocks or the seat of a folding chair. Press the thighs back and lengthen the torso forward. In this pose, the front-leg hip tends to lift up towards the shoulder and swing out to the side, which shortens the front-leg side. Be sure to soften the front-leg hip toward the earth and away from the same-side shoulder while you continue squeezing the outer thighs. Press the base of the big toe and the inner heel of the front foot firmly into the floor, then lift the inner groin of the front leg deep into the pelvis. Hold your torso and head parallel to the floor for a few breaths. Eventually, the long front torso will rest down on the thigh. Hold your maximum position for 15 to 30 seconds, then come up with an inhalation by pressing actively through the back heel and dragging the coccyx first down and then into the pelvis. Then go to the left side.
As in pyramid pose, make sure not to lock your knees in a triangle. You can rest your hand on your ankle, shin, the floor, or a block. Stand in Tadasana. With an exhalation, step or lightly jump your feet 3 1/2 to 4 feet apart. Raise your arms parallel to the floor, and reach them actively out to the sides, shoulder blades wide, palms down. Turn your left foot in slightly to the right and your right foot out to the right 90 degrees. Align the right heel with the left heel. Keep your thighs firm and turn your right thigh outward, so that the centre of the right knee cap is in line with the centre of the right ankle. Exhale and extend your torso to the right directly over the plane of the right leg, bending from the hip joint, not the waist. Anchor this movement by strengthening the left leg and pressing the outer heel firmly to the floor. Rotate the torso to the left, keeping the two sides equally long. Let the left hip come slightly forward and lengthen the tailbone toward the back heel. Rest your right hand on your shin, ankle, or the floor outside your right foot, whatever is possible without distorting the sides of the torso. Stretch your left arm towards the ceiling. Keep your head in a neutral position or turn it to the left, eyes gazing softly at the left thumb. Stay in this pose for 30 seconds or for a minute. Inhale and strongly press the back heel into the floor and reaching the top arm towards the ceiling.
Take the time to establish good alignment in your legs before lifting your arm. Having your hips stacked ensures that you can open your chest to its fullest potential. A block under your hand will also make a big difference since the added height allows you to turn your heart toward the ceiling instead of to the floor. Come onto the floor on your hands and knees. Set your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Spread your palms, index fingers parallel or slightly turned out, and turn your toes under. Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor. At first keep the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted away from the floor. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis and press it lightly toward the pubis. Lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling, and from your inner ankles, draw the inner legs up into the groin. Exhale and push your thighs back and stretch your heels down towards the floor. Keep the outer thighs firm and roll the upper thighs slightly inwards. Lift along your inner arms from the wrists to the tops of the shoulders. Firm your shoulder blades against your back, then widen them and draw them toward the tailbone. Keep your head between the upper arms.
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