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