Let's talk about hamstrings

The hamstrings are always the reason why I book an appointment for body massages. This is one key muscle we used in our everyday activities such as running after the bus in heels, training for a marathon, or simply a forward bend to touch the toes- a luxury for many.
Hamstrings is made up of three muscles 1. Bicep femoris, a two headed muscle. The long head originates from ischial and short head from the back of femur. Both heads insert on the head of fibula bone at the lateral side of the knee. This muscle extends the hips when beginning to walk while both long and short heads flex the knee and rotates the lower leg when knee is bent.
The other two muscles are 2. Semitendinosus and 3. Semimembranosus where they originate from ischial tuberosity but different insertion. Semimembranosus inserts on the inside of the back of tibia while the other inside of the front of tibia. These two muscles flex a straight knee, inwardly rotating the lower leg in the bent knee.
It has a dysfunctional relationship with the quadriceps such as when hamstrings is at work – running- the muscle contracts and the quads lengthen acting as antagonists, meaning it works against the prime mover, the contracting muscle. According to studies, the hamstrings are usually weaker than our quads for the reason quads are bigger and used more frequently. Hence, it is important to stretch our hammies thoroughly especially for high impact or endurance sports to avoid the “pulled hamstrings”.
Tightness in hamstrings limits most forward bend asanas (uttanasana), certain standing poses with external rotation of leg (utthita hasta padagusthasana B). To loosen those hammies, consider these asana to save the day:
1. low lunge – contracting the hamstrings of the front leg draws the trunk forward and accentuate the stretch of iliopsoas
2. krounchasana / Heron pose (you might need sometime to master it) – an excellent asana that stretches all hamstrings
3. Janu Sirsansana / head to knee forward bend – you use a strap to loop around your foot
4. Uttanasana / standing forward bend – stack tall blocks in front of your feet below your shoulders and keep a small bend in your knees and extend your heart forward as you press into the blocks
and we will touch our toes one day!
Evelyn G, 200hr YTTC

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