We all have like more than 600 muscles in our body and to be honest, before I started practising yoga, I didn’t even know the existence of some of them. I mean of course, we know the common ones like our biceps, our abs, our quads etc. but what about your Semitendinosus, Semimembranosus, Gastrocnemius? I swear they sound like names of dinosaurs e.g. Brontosaurus, Allosaurus. LOL. One reason why I took an interest in yoga was when I found out that I actually felt muscle aches in places that I have never ever experienced before. For someone who enjoys muscles aches, this is like some self-enlightening moment man I swear. Before I sound like a masochist, let’s talk about something else – Hamstrings!
I used to do a lot of sports and quite a bit of running as those were my ways to lose weight (yes, I used to be a chubby boy)/keep fit. As such, over time, my hamstrings tighten and it also doesn’t help that my hip were tight too. Even for a simple standing/seated forward bend, I used to face lots of difficulty in holding in my poses or even getting into them initially was a painful process. A consolation I got was that: “Your legs are too muscular” Hahahaha. That aside, I realised that it’s not an excuse, I just have to keep working on it. Eventually, after much stretching, I did find myself improving in those poses mentioned above. One tip I would like to share is that while you are in the shower, instead of lifting your legs up to apply soap on them, try reaching down and hold there while you take your time to clean them; After shower, put one leg on top of the basin or on the wall and reach forward with your towel to clean it. NO KIDDING MAN. I really did both of the above and it worked out for me in stretching my hamstrings.
Well, Our hamstrings are not only important for helping us to stretch more, they are also important in stabilising our knee joints! Furthermore, if we have tight hamstrings, it makes a lot of poses in yoga much more uncomfortable to hold for long periods of time. Through performing different asanas, we are about to stretch our hamstrings to increase its flexibility. For example, in order to stretch them, we can simply perform adho mukha svanasana. Likewise for any other muscles in our bodies, we can’t just stretch them, we need to strengthen them (i.e. contracting the muscles) and thus there are yoga poses like ukatasana and virabhadrasana III that help in strengthening them.
In the past, I always thought that I have tight hamstrings that prevent me from getting into certain poses but in the past four weeks, I’ve been reminded a couple of times that my hamstrings are actually not that tight after all. I guess I was just giving myself an excuse when I can’t do certain poses. Haha. Eventually, I realise that I need to learn to activate my core/strengthen my quads/work on other muscles more! My hamstrings are like an old friend to me because it has always been there at the back of my mind – I constantly tell myself that I NEED TO STRETCH IT – but I guess it’s time for me to focus on my other muscles in order to perform certain asanas better. 🙂