Unleash those hamstrings!

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Tight hamstrings is a common complaint for most people I speak to. The lower back, hips and glutes have to overcompensate and can become strained.

Why do we have tight hamstrings? Most people get tight hamstrings from sitting all day… over an accumulation of years (studying or working at computer). Hamstrings can also become tight from running and/or cycling.

There is an easy set of sequences that can be done on a daily basis to stretch out the hamstrings, lower back, hips and glutes. It can be done anywhere and chances are that your children, flatmates or dogs will want to get stuck in with you as well.

All you knee is your body and a belt or anything you can wrap over foot and hold with one hand (e.g. dog leash).

In yoga terms, it is called Supta Hasta Padangusthasana, reclined hand-to-toe pose. These poses are meant to be done using some effort, drawing the belt tighter as time goes on – make it a strong pose.

Instructions below are for 1 leg doing 4 poses. Please walk through the sequence on the other side. This sequence will take 10 minutes or less, depending on how long you’d like to hold each pose.

Pose 1: Start with leg up

  1. Put belt on the ball of the foot (the cushy bit below the toes) of right foot.
  2. Keep left leg straight for more intense (or bend left knee, placing foot on floor)
  3. Keep both shoulders on ground, with straight arm holding belt
  4. Hold this pose for a minute, drawing the belt tighter as you feel the muscles releasing
  5. Breath into the muscles that feel tight

Pose 2: Drop leg out to right side, opening right hip

  1. Keep belt on ball of foot, holding belt with right hand
  2. Slowly allow right leg to open up and drop to right side
  3. Left hand out to side to stabilise
  4. Keep both shoulders and both hips on ground
  5. Leg does not need to touch the floor, only until you feel a slight burning in inner thigh (that means it’s working!)
  6. Keep breathing

Pose 3: Leg crosses over to opposite side

  1. Keep belt on ball of foot, now holding it with left hand
  2. Slowly take right leg over to left side, right hip rising up slightly
  3. Drop right hand out to side to stabilise (and stretch out chest muscles as well)
  4. Keep both shoulders on ground
  5. Keep leg straight
  6. Feel the stretch in the glutes and side of leg (IT Band)
  7. It’s all about the breath, your muscles will release more if you breath through it

Pose 4: The final stretch

  1. Drop the belt
  2. Grab the leg anywhere (calf or upper leg)
  3. Lift head to meet knee, just for that final stretch
  4. Gently drop right leg down. That leg probably feels about 4 feet longer than the other one.

Switch legs: Place belt on left ball of foot and repeat the 4 poses, using opposite side

This set of stretches, if done every day, will improve your hamstring flexibility. It will alleviate lower back issues.

And if you are still sitting all day at work, remember to get up every hour and walk around. Take laptop to a counter and stand a bit. If you are cycling/running, try to stretch afterwards (ha, ya right).

And remember to mindfully stretch, breathe into it and observe how the muscles are feeling! They will undoubtedly be whispering “thanks” to you.

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