Yoga First Aid for Tight Hamstrings


Are Your Hamstrings Wound Tight as Piano Wires?

Tight hamstrings are the downfall of many a student who might otherwise have enjoyed a glorious lifetime of yoga practice. It could be one reason that men and peak athletes drop out of yoga classes.

Believe me, when we’re talking about ‘screaming hammies’, I understand. Jogging, tennis, and cycling are all activities that toughen up your hamstrings. And, these are what I engaged in for years before discovering yoga.

My yoga teacher’s advice did nothing to allay the back leg discomfort I experienced in class. I asked him, ‘How long does it take to loosen up hamstrings?’ He explained the hamstring rule of thumb: count one month of steady chipping away for every year that you are. What this meant for me as a thirty-five year old was that it would take three and a half years of dedicated practice to gain flexibility.

I wasn’t going anywhere, so I decided I might as well treat the project as a personal challenge. I worked hard. I wish I could say I enjoyed the journey. I would have rather done twenty-five urdhva dhanuasana backbends than five minutes of supta padangusthasana I & II (supine leg stretches). 

Yet, this intense three year program had its desired effect. I finished up with the kind of long smooth muscles and related flexibility that I aimed for.

There are two great things about having applied all this effort.

1) It will take a long time to lose your hard-won suppleness.

2) Hamstring flexibility can help with lower back problems where the difficulty relates to a posterior pelvic tilt.

There was an extra benefit for me. A long-standing sciatica condition I had simply vanished.

Sequence for Hamstrings 

Should you want to take up the hamstring challenge, here’s a sequence of poses that you might find useful.

Supta padangusthasana I & II, 1 minute each side

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana I, 2 minutes each side

Parsvottanasana, 1 minute each side

Adho Mukha Svanasana, heels at the wall, then repeat, hands at the wall, 2 minutes each

Prasarita Padottanasana, 2 minutes

Padanagusthasana, 1 minute

Pada Hastasana, 1 minutes

Uttanasana, 1 minute

Paschimottanasana, 2 minutes

Trianga Muka Eka Pada Paschimottanasana, 2 minutes each side

Krounchasana, 1 minute each side

Upavistha Konasana, and Parsva Upavistha Konasana, 1 minute each variation

Sirsasana or Preparation for Sirsasana, 5 minutes

Lunges, x 6

Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana, 1 minute each side x 2

Supta Virasana, 3-5 minutes

Ardha Halasana, 5 minutes

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, 5 minutes

Viparita Karani, 5-10minutes

Chair Savasana, 10 minutes

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