If you practice yoga, chances are you have experienced some limitations in your yoga poses due to tight or short hamstrings.
Check out this video and continue reading to learn more about this major muscle group.
Hamstrings are the three large muscles that form the bulk of your thigh, along the backside of your body. They are also known as the semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and biceps femoris (long and short head). Simply put, the hamstring muscles connect the knee to the hip, and are integral for knee flexion and hip extension.
There are many causes of tight hamstrings. It may be that your musculoskeletal system simply formed that way, or that you spend the bulk of your time seated. Likewise, practicing certain sports, such as soccer, can lead to tightness in the hamstrings.
Regardless of the cause of your hamstring tightness, it’s important to remember that you can’t always change what you’re born with. What you can do is improve your quality of life by maintaining a healthy body that operates to the best of its ability.
In short, the best approach is to ‘work with what you’ve got.’
To avoid undue stress or injury, it is crucial to resist the temptation of pulling or forcing your body into yoga poses to intentionally stretch your hamstrings. This kind of stretching tends to stress the ligaments and tendons, rather than changing the shape of the actual muscle.
Muscles in the body are made to contract or shorten. Tendons and ligaments are fibrous connective tissue which serve to hold structures together and keep them stable. Forcing a yoga pose can put you at risk of injuring the less flexible connective tissues, instead of actually stretching your muscles.
Common yoga poses that may you might find challenging due to tight hamstrings are variations of forward bends, such as paschimottanasana, and adho mukha svanasana, commonly known as downward-facing dog.
Yoga teachers provide accommodations to students with tighter or shorter hamstrings, such as elevating the hips in seated yoga poses by sitting on a block or blanket. In the case of standing yoga poses, such as downward-facing dog, bending the knees is a common adaptation.
We asked Kylie Rook, from Yoga with Kylie, to put together a simple and safe 7-minute routine to help you find more freedom in your hamstrings. Practiced regularly, you may find you have more ease in those yoga poses that challenge your hamstrings.