How to Get Happy And Flexible Hamstrings
In this article we share some tips about improving flexibility in the hamstrings. We also talk about the science of the hamstrings and posterior chain. And we suggest some yoga postures to help you improve and increase your flexibility.
Tips To Increase Your Flexibility: Bend the knees!
- Bend the knees!
- Don’t lock out the knee to stretch the hamstrings
- Keep a soft bend to the knee about 5°
- Because the hamstrings attach slightly anterior to the pivot point of the knee, keep the knee bent
- A bent knee also takes the nervous system off stretch
- Sometimes you could simply be stretching nerve tissue rather than the hamstrings , if the knee and leg are straight
- A straight leg can also aggravate the sciatic nerve
- Bent knees can also protect the lower back
- Bent knees also enable the pelvis more space to enable you to move forwards
- You can also try and flex and point the foot
- See what works for you
Note that the hamstrings and quadriceps work together as a pair. The antagonist and the agonist. Remember: The agonist is the muscle that is in agony i.e. doing all the work and movement. The antagonist is essentially lazy and not working.
A Bit Of Hamstring Science!
Long and flexible hamstrings will reduce aches and pains in the body, improve your posture and allow you to do all of the activities and sports that you love; and improve your yoga practice.
Tight hamstrings are a common problem. They can be tight if you are an athlete, or if you are inactive. You may also have a natural disposition towards tightness, or may have an old injury that causes tension and tightness in this areas; or you may have tension and tightness in other areas of the body that affect forward motion, touching your toes et cetera.
Sometimes you may even believe that your hamstrings are tight when in fact it is a problem in the posterior chain.
For example your calves may be tight or the muscles that cross your knees, which may mean that you cannot straighten your leg as you should. The connections from your deep hip muscles such as your glutes, or piriformis can affect the ease in which your pelvis tilts and this can affect how you bend forwards at the hip. There could also be joint restrictions in the pelvis and lower back area, which could increase tension throughout your hip and leg area. (And you may see that once the spine is warmed up that mobility increases in the hamstrings). Another factor could be the facial interconnections between your muscle groups, and they may not slide freely beside one another.
Or it could be a combination of the above.
So you may have tight hamstrings, but it may just be a small part of the whole picture. And therefore we need to work on the posterior chain and the hamstrings!
We have three hamstrings on each side of the back of the legs: the lateral hamstring (outer side) and the medial (hamstring inside and middle hamstrings). Read on to find out how to improve your flexibility with yoga and stretching exercises.
5 Postures To Improve Your Hamstring Flexibility And Posterior Chain
- Kneeling lunge into hamstring stretch. Work dynamically and then statically; and then change sides. Keep a soft bend to the knee.
2. Standing hamstring stretch with foot on a chair. Keep a bend to the knee, and ease forwards at the hip creases. Repeat on the other side. Hold for 12 breaths each side. If comfortable you can release the head and shoulders.
3. Standing hamstring stretch with heel on a chair, ease the foot left and right and then lean forward and ease the foot left and right. Keep the back straight and a bend to the knee. You can feel the lateral and medial hamstrings working.
4. Forward fold with a bend to the knees, with body thigh contact. Tilt your pelvis back and try to imagine trying to sit on the wall behind you, and hold for 12 breaths. The head is nice and heavy.
5. Reclined Hamstring Stretch with a belt. Keep the elevated knee bent, draw the thigh towards you and hold. Then ease the leg right and hold and then left and hold; to work the lateral and medial hamstrings.
Day 18 of our February Yoga Challenge focuses on hamstring flexibility: Happy Hamstrings. Do let us know if you’d like to join us for the February Flow And Glow Journey or for the day. Just contact us and we will be in touch.
Thank you. Faye