If you can relate to the phrase “tight hamstrings” then this blog is especially for you…However, maybe you can relate to some of these other phrases instead or in addition to:
“I have pain in the lower back”
“Pain in the outer hips or any part of the hip area”
“My calves are super tight”
But lets not meander too off track…. back to the hamstrings.
Lately in my own yoga practice I have been noticing a theme – the first part of my practice has largely been devoted to opening and lengthening my hamstrings. Now I should add, I am not a genetically flexible person. You know those people who can fold themselves into pretzels; who can do the splits; who have those limbs that can bend in every which way?? Well, thats not me. I have to work very hard to open my hamstrings, and even though I have definitely come along way, I can relate to every inflexible or tight body out there.
My hamstring assessment as of late is that summer can be an especially difficult time for our hamstrings. Activity of every kind generally increases, whether it be walking, hiking, running, racquet sports, golf, or maybe even activities that involve more sitting such as travelling or fishing- all things that can cause our hamstrings to tighten up.
Activities that increase our cardio or heart rate often work against our muscles, since the muscles tend to shorten during these activities (weight lifting included). Sitting for extended periods of time may also cause the muscle tightening, because we are not allowing our muscles to stretch. Looking at the hamstrings, when we are sitting we are getting no stretch into the back of our legs.
So as we approach (dare I say it) the dog days of summer, you may start to notice more tightness in the hamstrings as I have found in my own body lately. In turn, you may be noticing more tightness into the lower back as these two dynamics often go hand in hand.
The good news? Although hamstrings can tighten up fairly quickly, they also tend to open up fairly quickly with just a bit of work. Below you will find a few poses that can help stretch out the back of the legs, and may actually help in creating less tension in your whole body. Give them a try!
UTTANASANA – come to a standing position, with your feet approximately hip width apart (if your hamstrings are very tight you may even eat to take the feet a bit wider apart then this). Take a big inhale as you sweep your arms overhead, as you exhale, folding from the hips reaching your hands towards the floor. If your fingertips or palm do not touch the ground then grab opposite elbows and rest in the forward fold (6-8 breaths)
WALL STRETCH – taking your hands to a wall approximately shoulder height and shoulder distance apart, take a big inhale and on your exhale walk the feet back until your body forms a right angle (or L shape). Feet again about hip distance apart or a bit wider. Hold and breathe here 6-8 breaths and then walk back to the wall and rest.
PASHIMOTANASA – come to a seated position on the floor with your legs straight. Take a big inhale and sweep your arms overhead, on the exhale folding from the hips come to a forward fold and rest your hands onto your legs – maybe the ankles, maybe the shins or maybe the thighs. Hold for 6-8 breaths and then release.
If your lower back is not as happy as it should be, try to do some hamstring stretching every day.
Until next time,