A large part of our 4 weeks of training have been focused mainly on perfecting and understanding the correct postures for our asanas and strengthening the relevant muscles. But one thing I have discovered is that while I may understand how the posture should look and how to correct others, it does not necessarily mean that my own body is willing to cooperate. This is particularly the case for forward bends, where painfully tight hamstrings continue to be the bane of my yoga practice.
I know for myself which of my poses don’t look right but room for self correction is limited because any adjustment usually just puts me in a lot of pain. This is a common problem which I see in quite a number of my classmates as well. * So for those of you who are fortunate enough not to have tight hamstrings, please have mercywhen you adjust us. Gently does it…The past 4 weeks of daily practice have improved it a little but for the most part they are still agonizingly tight. Sometimes our instructors keep telling us ‘Don’t round the back!’ and ‘lengthen the spine!’. That would be no problem at all if only I could cut my hamstrings!
Here are some tips I’ve scrounged from the internet which have helped in my understanding of tight hamstrings:
- As its probably been mentioned, tight hamstrings are seldom due to hamstrings alone but are often associated with tight hip flexors. It is recommended to stretch the Psoas, hips, lower back, glutes and calves as well
- Weak lower abdominals or a weak lower back are possible causes of tight hamstrings as well because they have to compensate to pull and support your upper body upright when walking.
- Sitting for long durations is probably the leading cause of tight hamstrings because your hips are perpetually flexed and the hamstrings in a shortened position. For those of you in deskbound jobs, get up and walk around more often!
- Use a foam roller to release tension during stretching. I’ve been trying this but success has been limited. Seems to feel like it doesn’t quite go deep enough
- During common hamstring stretches, not rounding the back (i.e. push your chest forward to lengthen the lower back) really deepens the hamstring stretch!
After 10 year of ballet and dance, a couple of years bashing my patellas out in figure skating and the past 2 years pole dancing (where I succeeded in injuring my left hamstrings twice), I consider myself to be pretty lucky not have given myself any major injuries and still be able to twist myself into fancy yoga poses. At the grand old age of 27, I think my body is likely to be a decade older given the way my joints pop every time I move into new positions. At the moment, I’m in the belief that if I keep up the discipline for my daily yoga practice and practice religiously, I might someday be able to breeze through my downward dogs and forward bends without pain (Imagine the flexibility!).
Till then, keep stretching! 🙂