Hamstrings – stretch or strengthen?

Many types of yoga classes that are taught in studios focus a lot on stretching and lengthening of the posterior muscles on the body, and very little on strengthening. The proportion of poses that stretch the back of your body, far exceed poses that aim to strengthen the same muscles. Overstretched hamstrings are a common issue, and “Yoga butt” is a common term I’ve heard friends mentioning when I share that I experience pain at my sit bones when I do a forward fold/bend. 

There’s a misconception that to be able to practice yoga, one has to be ultra flexible. How many times have you heard friends who’ve never done yoga say “I can’t do yoga because I can’t touch my toes”? But in order to be a all rounded yoga practitioner, strengthening muscles are just as important as being flexible.

So for me, because I am aware that my hamstrings are relatively weaker, it’s helpful to try and include hamstring specific strengthening asanas in my practice.

Here are some asanas to consider including in your yoga practice next time, if you would like to strengthen muscles in the back of your body. These poses aim to strengthen the muscles in the posterior chain of the body. Additional tip: Try to hold these poses for a few extra breaths to feel the muscles start working.

  • Locust pose
  • Hamstring curls
  • Eka Pada Uttanpadasana
  • Supta Padangusthasana (1, 2, 3)
  • Sethu Bandhasana
  • Purvotanasana