Nose to shin… could it be any closer?

Day 2 of the 200 YTT course, during the morning session.  I was struggling on my Uttanasana (forward fold) as my hamstrings were too tight for my hands to touch the ground without bending my knees.
Master Paalu comes around to adjust me: “Are you a runner?”
Me: “No… I only do yoga..”
Master Paalu: “Why are your hamstrings so tight?”
Me: *helplessly trying to touch the floor*
Flexibility never used to be a problem for me as I used to practice ballet for at least 3 times a week until a car accident left me with a whiplash with recurring pain on my neck, shoulders and back.  When I started yoga, I hated seeing myself in the mirror during stretches as I was horribly stiff.  Stretching had become such a painful exercise for me.
By the end of week 2 in this course, I had thought that the daily doses of intensive yoga would help with my flexibility, but it only felt like it was getting worse. Were all the core exercises developing my muscles, tightening them and preventing me from folding forwards??  As I looked around my classmates holding their Utthita hasta padangusthasana nonchalantly, I knew I had to do give some special attention to my hamstrings.
That weekend, I decided to dedicate myself to my hamstrings.  I said no to my friends inviting me to play tennis and softball, as I could not risk any more muscle tightening.
Some hamstrings stretches I tried out:
–          Playing around with a tennis ball massaging my hamstrings.
–          Standing on a tennis ball to stimulate some reflexology points.
–          Lay down on a bed, hold one leg on the thigh (can be bent) at 90deg from the floor, flex the feet and count down from 7. Move the leg closer to the body, flex the feet and count down from 7. Continue for 5-7 times, each time moving the leg closer to the body.
–          Have a partner push one leg towards your body, keeping your leg stretched.
–          Have a partner push you from the lower back in Paschimottanasana.
When week 3 started, I was able to hold my Utthita hasta padangusthasana A&B with my knees straight!  And Paschimottanasana A-D were no longer a torturous exercise, they actually felt good.  Belly to thighs, nose to shin, right hand grabbing my left wrist beyond my feet and everything!
Naho Udagawa – 200hr YTTC weekday

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