Yoga for Tight Hamstrings

Yoga for Tight Hamstrings

What’s one of the most popular excuses you’ve heard (or given) for not trying yoga?

There are quite a few, but the one we’re going to focus on today is “Oh, I can’t do yoga! I can’t even touch my toes!”

Now, as anyone who’s gone on to attempt yoga after saying this can attest, you don’t have to touch your toes to get a lot from your practice. But this is a common excuse anyway because hamstrings are generally some of the toughest muscles to loosen up.

The hamstrings consist of four large muscles located at the back of the thighs. Your hamstrings are constantly at work throughout the day, holding you upright and helping you to walk, jog, run, bike, etc., etc. Your hamstrings extend the hip and flex the knee whenever you move your legs back and forth and because of this constant, heavy-duty work, the tissue structure of your hamstrings is tough.

And since your hamstrings are such big muscles, they have a tendency to take over the jobs of the other parts of your lower body. For instance, the ligaments around your knees can become weakened if you lock your knees too much, in which case your hamstrings will step in. Wearing shoes that don’t provide the right support can also cause your hips to get out of line, meaning the glutes can weaken as postural muscles and allow the hamstrings to take over that job too.

All of these common issues add up to tight, tight hamstrings that are tough, tough to loosen. Which is why we found this yoga sequence to help start chipping away at that tough fascial tissue and loosening those hamstrings!

 

1. Start off in Mountain Pose then step your legs out wide for Wide-Legged Tipover Tuck.

  • Feet should be 3-4 feet apart with your heels slightly wider than your toes.
  • Inhale and interlace your hands behind you or, if this hurts your shoulders, hold opposite elbows.
  • Exhale, folding forward at the hips, keeping your legs straight and pressing weight into your toes.
  • Hold for five deep breaths.

 

2. After you come up slowly, bend your knees to come to the Extended Wide Squat.

  • With knees bent, lower into a wide squat.
  • Extend your arms in front of you and relax your neck, dropping the head between your arms.
  • Hold for five deep breaths.

 

3. Slowly stand up and make your way to the front of your mat for Standing Forward Bend.

  • From standing, bring your feet hip-width distance apart.
  • Inhale and fold at the torso, exhaling as you rest your hands on your thighs, shins, or the floor.
  • To intensify this stretch, shift your weight forward into the toes. Remember to keep your knees bent if you need.
  • Hold for five breaths, nodding the head up and down and slowly shaking it side to side to release your neck.

 

4. Inhale back up to Mountain Pose and prepare for Standing Hand to Big Toe A.

  • Hold the right big toe (if you can) with the first two fingers and thumb of your right hand and raise your right leg into the air, shifting your weight into your left foot, keeping your left hand on your left hip.
  • If you can’t keep a hold on your toe and keep your leg straight, that’s fine! Just extend your leg out as straight as you can and keep your right hand on your hip to keep your hips square.
  • Keep the tailbone tucked and hold for five breaths.

 

5. Inhale your lifted leg out for Standing Hand to Big Toe B.

  • With your right leg still lifted, rotate it out to the side, turning your gaze to over your left shoulder.
  • If this is too much of a stretch, bend your knee and hold it steady with your right hand.
  • Pull the right toes as high as you can and hold this pose for five breaths.

 

6. Now take the leg all the way back for Dancer.

  • Inhale and bring your right leg back to center, keeping it lifted.
  • Bend your knee (if it’s not already) and send the leg behind you, leaning forward and reaching your left arm out in front.
  • Hold your back leg with your right hand and try to keep your chest open and your bottom leg straight.
  • Hold for five breaths.

 

7. Now, come back to Mountain Pose and do steps 4-6 with your left leg raised.

 

8. Next, come back to Mountain Pose to prepare for Intense Side Stretch.

  • Step your left leg back, keeping your hips square to the front of your mat, so your feet are about three feet apart.
  • Fold forward over your right leg, allowing it to bend or shortening your stance if this is too much.
  • Rest your hands on your hips or on the floor on either side of your front leg.
  • Breathe deeply here for five breaths.

 

9. Now, place your hands on the mat beside your right foot and step the right foot back for Circling Three-Legged Dog.

  • You can move into this pose either through Downward Dog or by kicking your right leg all the way back into Three-Legged Dog.
  • Keeping your leg straight, make circles with the leg that’s in the air without letting your foot touch the floor.
  • Repeat for a few breaths before switching directions for another few breaths.

 

10. When you’ve circled your leg a few times both ways, stop and step your right leg back up to the outside of your right hand for Open Lizard.

  • Once you’ve placed your right foot, lower your left knee to the floor and keep your left toes pointed.
  • Slowly lower your right knee to the right, allowing your flexed right foot to fall open.
  • Keep your arms straight and press your chest forward to encourage your hips to lower.
  • Keep your gaze forward and hold this pose for five breaths.

 

11. Next, shift your hips and weight back, bending your left knee and straightening your right leg as best you can for Splits!

  • This is a tough pose so be sure to listen to your body and make sure you don’t fight it for a deeper stretch.
  • Keeping your right leg straight and your hips square, try to lower your right leg and straighten your left leg by walking out your right foot as far as you can.
  • Hold wherever you feel a deep stretch for five breaths.

 

12. Now, make your way back to Downward Facing Dog and shake your hips out a bit if you need because you’re going to repeat steps 8-11 on the left side!

 

13. After your left side split, make your way onto your bum for One-Legged Seated Saddle.

  • With your legs out wide, turn your torso toward your right leg.
  • Hinge at the hips and fold over the right thigh, keeping your spine straight.
  • Breathe deeply for five breaths.

 

14. Next, bend your left knee and place the sole of your foot against your right inner thigh for Head to Knee.

  • Fold back over your right leg on an exhale.
  • Rest your hands either on the floor, on your shin, or wrap them around your foot if you can reach.
  • Hold for five breaths.

 

15. Now, repeat steps 13-14 on the left!

16. Come back to an easy seated position for Double Pigeon.

  • Bend your right knee and place it on top of your left ankle (the left leg should also be bent).
  • Make sure your knees, shins, and ankles are stacked and the shins are parallel.
  • For a more intense stretch, place your hands on your mat in front of your legs and walk them out as far as you can.
  • Hold for five breaths.
  • Repeat with the left leg on top.

 

17. From your seated pose, lower down onto your back for Reclining Big Toe A and B.

  • Now, we’re going to do what we did before, just lying down!
  • First, keep your left knee bent with your left foot flat on the floor.
  • Raise your right leg in the air, holding onto it either behind your thigh, calf, or big toe.
  • You can also wrap a strap around your foot and hold onto that!
  • Hold for five breaths.
  • Slowly straighten out your left leg and allow the right leg to fall to the side.
  • Turn your gaze over your left shoulder and hold for five breaths.
  • Repeat on the left side.

 

18. Still on your back, straighten your legs back out to prepare for Reclining Straddle.

  • Bend your knees and grab your big toes using your first two fingers and thumbs.
  • Straighten your legs as best and as wide as you can, keeping a bend in the knees if necessary.
  • Hold for five breaths.

 

19. Next, bend your knees into your chest and give yourself a little hug as you rock side to side for a gentle back massage. Then, lower the legs all the way down for Savasana!

  • Relax and lay flat as you allow yourself to breathe naturally.
  • Make sure to hold your Savasana for 3-5 minutes to allow your body to rest and your practice to come to a close.
  • Slowly come out of your Savasana by making small movements in your fingers and toes before stretching out and rolling over to your favorite side.
  • Make your way all the way up to seated and seal your practice with a Namaste!

 

 

Be sure to stay tuned with HealingRadius for more yoga sequences, pose how-tos, and more!

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