The hamstrings are a group of muscles positioned on the posterior of the thighs that act as antagonist for our quadriceps. They are made up of the Bicep Femoris, Semitendinosus and Semimembranosus.
In runners or weightlifters, these muscles are often shortened and contracted from power moves originating from the legs. When practicing yoga, it is common to observe such demographics having difficulty holding certain poses that require a level of flexibility in this muscle area.
Here are 3 asanas that can help with lengthening and loosening these muscle fibres:
Uttanasana // Forward Bending Pose
The Uttanasana can be a challenging pose for those with tight hamstrings. As we fold ourselves forwards, in order to keep our knees straight, we need to pull the hamstrings. With tight hip flexors, this pose can prove impossible to perform correctly.
Nevertheless, this pose works the hamstrings very well, and used gradually as a passive stretch, can help to release the tension in our hamstring muscles.
Paschimottanasana // Seated Forward Bend
Relative of the Uttanasana is the seated version, performed whilst resting on the floor. This version is gentler as it does not place pressure on the knees and can be held in a passive stretch for longer periods of time.
This is recommended for those with weak knee joints, or as a supplement to the Uttanasana during day-to-day activities like watching the TV or relaxing.
Supta Padangusthasana // Reclined Hamstring Stretch
Lie on your back and reach your foot towards the ceiling. In a typical individual, the thighs should be able to form a 90º angle with the belly. In tight hamstrings, this angle usually varies from between 20º to 45º.
Use a rope or band to assist you in pulling your foot up as high as you can go. Feel the deep stretch behind the knees and hold it for around 1-2 minutes each time.
In between training for flexibility, carry on with yoga practice but use props to assist you as much as possible. From using bricks to increase the angle of bends, to using bands to pull the legs up. Keep on keeping on.