How are those hamstrings doing?

photographer: Mayel Barro Negro

photographer: Mayel Barro Negro  

In yoga it seems like it´s an endless goal to stretch ( and stretch and stretch) the hamstrings. But for many it can in the beginning be a little difficult to find a proper stretch. So if you´re one of them that are fighting in a sitting position  with an upright back on the floor with the legs  straight and the toes pointing upwards, here are some tricks:

  • sit on something! For example a block or a tiny chair or a pillow. Or try to bend the knees a bit. Both of those tricks helps you to keep an elongation through the upper body so you can focus on the hamstrings instead
  • try bending one knee to the side and let the sole of the foot touch the other legs inner thigh. when doing this the goal is to stretch the hamstrings in the straight leg.  It is often easier and more effective to stretch one side at the time. If you´r still struggling and fighting for keeping the lower back “straight” (it is not supposed to be straight, but it should feel like it) try bending the straight knee a bit, or sit a little higher (for example on a block). Yoga lingo= Janu Sirsasana
  • lie on the back, keep one leg either straight on the floor or bend it and let the sole of the foot touch the mat and the knee pointing up. Stretch the other leg up towards the sky ( it is totally fine to keep the knee as bend as you need) and with your hands grab the backside of your thigh or calf. Also you can use a strap instead ( a yoga strap or something that can be used for the same purpose like a belt or a long piece of fabric). Place the strap on top of your footpad (just after your toes), let the shoulder blades stay in contact with the floor and grab each side of the strap with your hands. If you need to intensify the stretch a bit just pull the strap gently towards you. Yoga lingo = Supta Padangusthasana
  • use the gravity- place one foot a little further in front of you, hip distance between the feet. Place your arms on your back and hold on to your elbows ( if this hurts your shoulders in any way place the hands on your hips pointing the elbows a little to the back). From the hip reach (fold) the upper body forward until your find a stretch in the hamstrings of the front leg. Stay! While you´r here keep lifting the chest forward and away from the belly button (the purpose with this is to keep elongating through the upper body). I have no fancy word for this one- please enlighten me if you know 🙂

In all variations keep the stretch in the middle ( in the belly) of the muscle-back out if the stretch is either closer to the back of the hip or the back of the knee.

And BREATHE- imagine that you inhale air to the spot that stretches and on every exhale that spot relaxes a little. I find it quite helpful to imagine this stretch spot as a ballon ( pick a color). On the inhale I blow are into the ballon and on every exhale the air comes out of the ballon and the rubber gets a little less dense.

There are many other ways to stretch those hamstrings- these are just some ways of doing it 🙂


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