I have a friend with "angry" hamstrings (you know who you are). In fact, I have a lot of clients, friends and colleagues with angry hamstrings. Whether it’s from too many years of biking or running, too many years of sitting at a desk, or too many years of not enough stretching, there are a lot of people walking around out there with chronically tight, inflexible and just plain angry hamstrings.
And what happens when hamstrings get angry? Tightness in one area of the body naturally leads to tightness or weakness or strain in other areas. With tight hamstrings, the lower back becomes more prone to testiness, and this mood can spread its way up the back to create sensitivity in the neck and shoulders and, well, you get the picture.
So, in honour of all of you out there with angry hamstrings, here are three simple yoga moves to soothe the hamstrings, release a little of their anger, and bring a little more calm to your body.
Extended leg stretch (Supine)
Lie on your back, draw your right knee into your chest and loop the band or strap around the arch of the right foot. Slowly extend your right leg creating enough tension on the band/strap that you feel a stretch right up the back of the leg. Your left leg can either be bent (with the foot flat on the floor) or extended along the floor.
Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Switch legs.
Extended Leg circles (Supine)
Slowly circle your leg (without letting the hips shift or the buttocks come off the floor) as wide as your range of motion will allow. Circle 8x in one direction, and then circle the leg 8x in the other direction. Switch legs.
Standing Forward bend into Squat
Come into a hanging standing forward bend with the feet hip-distance apart. (Most people with tight hamstrings will need to bend the knees slightly to avoid any strain on the lower back). Inhale and bend the knees into a squat position and bring fingertips to the floor. Exhale and keep the fingers on the floor but come back into a forward bend by straightening the legs as much as you can. Repeat 8x
Downward Dog (see image at top of post)
From all fours, tuck the toes under and lift the buttocks up and back, straightening the legs as much as your hamstrings will allow. The heels do not need to touch the floor but imagine them lengthening down towards the floor. Alternate pressing one heel towards the floor and bending the opposite knee (as if you’re walking on the spot).
Try these yoga poses every day for the next couple of weeks and hopefully they’ll help make your hamstrings happier! And a gentle reminder: whenever you're moving through yoga poses, please ensure you're practising safely and within your comfort level. For more yoga safety tips, click here.