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  • Seated Hamstring Stretches,
    Using Leverage to Stretch (and Strengthen) Your Hamstrings

    easy compass pose, knee bent, hamstring stretch, knee straight, spine long, yoga pose, head pulled back and up, chin down towards chest.

    Because hamstring stretches stretch the back of the legs as well as opening the backs of the knees and hip joint, they are also known as forward bending yoga poses.

    However, not all forward bends are hamstring stretches.

    You may find that doing low lung hip extensor stretch first makes the following seated hamstring stretches a little bit easier.

    Also, if your hamstring flexiblity is extremely limited you might find it more effective to do standing hamstring stretches first.

    Stretching the Hamstrings by Moving the Upper Body towards the Leg Or the Leg Towards the Upper Body

    In the following seated hamstring stretches you can stretch the hamstrings either by tilting the pelvis forwards relative to the pelvis (such as in "Wide Leg Seated Forward Fold", "Janu Sirsasana A", or "Pashcimottanasana").

    wide leg forward bend, knees straight, bent forwards and relaxed
    janu sirsasana a, yoga pose, seated hamstring stretch, bent forwards over straight leg, relaxed with hands on floor
    relaxed seated forward bend yoga position, yoga pose, seated hamstring stretch relaxed

    You could also pull the legs (one leg at a time) towards the front of the body as shown below (Compass Pose preparation).

    easy compass pose, knee bent, hamstring stretch, knee straight, spine long, yoga pose, head pulled back and up, chin down towards chest.

    In both types of hamstring stretches, the knees are straight (or as straight as possible.)

    This can be made more pleasant if you focus on feeling your breath.

    Wide Leg Seated Hamstring Stretch

    Generally, the seated wide legged forward bend is the easiest of seated hamstrings stretches.

    wide leg forward bend, knees straight, bent forwards and relaxed
    wide leg forward bend, knees straight, reaching forwards with hands off of floor, yoga pose

    Janu Sirsasana A

    Janu Sirsasana A is also a seated hamstring stretch. However only one leg is straight in this yoga pose.

    As with the wide legged seated forward fold, you can first practice lengthening your spine while seated upright.

    In the pictures below I'm turned forty-five degrees in from my straight leg while I practice straightening and relaxing my spine.

    janu sirsasana a, yoga pose, seated hamstring stretch, sitting upright relaxed
    janu sirsasana a, yoga pose, seated hamstring stretch, sitting upright spine ling

    Bending forwards you can first bend forwards while facing between both legs.

    If you start of with this variation, shown below, you can increase the difficulty of the pose by gradually turning your body so that your torso is reaching over your straight leg.

    janu sirsasana a, yoga pose, seated hamstring stretch, bent forwards between legs, relaxed
    janu sirsasana a, yoga pose, seated hamstring stretch, bent forwards between legs, spine long, arms reaching forwards

    In the photos below I'm turned towards my straight leg.

    janu sirsasana a, yoga pose, seated hamstring stretch, bent forwards over straight leg, relaxed with hands on floor
    janu sirsasana a, yoga pose, seated hamstring stretch, bent forwards over straight leg, spine long, arms long and reaching forwards, hands off of floor.

    If your bent knee doesn't touch the floor you can either place a block beneath it so that you can then press that leg down against the block or focus on pressing the outer edge of the foot into the floor as you lengthen your spine. (The foot of the bent knee leg that is.)

    Janu Sirsasana B Seated Hamstring Stretch

    In Janu Sirsasana B position your pelvis so that your anus is on top of your heel. then bend forwards. You can point the bent knee foot to the side or forwards. Try both variations and notice how they feel.

    Janu Sirsasana C

    Here are some suggestions for getting comfortable in the Janu Sirsasana C foot position as well as some modifications.

    Seated Forward Fold

    After doing the above seated hamstring stretch on both sides you can then do a seated hamstring stretch with both legs together. This is easier with the feet about hip-width apart (my favored position.) It can become a lot more uncomfortable with feet together.

    As with the wide leg seated front fold, you can also do this seated forward bending yoga pose with knees bent.

    As you tilt further and further forwards in this yoga pose, try to widen the top of your inner thighs (close to the groin) while keeping your feet in the same position. With inner thighs widened, press your inner thighs downwards so that you can use your psoas and iliacus to help tilt your pelvis forwards. Or focus on using your outer glutes (gluteus minimus and medius) to help tilt your pelvis forwards relative to your thighs.

    The pictures below show lengthening the spine while sitting upright with knees bent.

    seated forward bend hamstring stretch, yoga pose prep position, knees bent
    seated forward bend hamstring stretch, yoga pose prep position, knees bent

    You can practice the same thing, lengthening the spine and reaching the arms forwards, with your pelvis tilted forwards a little bit. You can do this with knees straight (shown) or with knees bent (not shown.)

    In either case, press your legs down as you lengthen your spine.

    relaxed seated forward bend yoga position, yoga pose, seated hamstring stretch relaxed
    relaxed seated forward bend yoga position, yoga pose, seated hamstring stretch spine long, arms reaching forwards

    Finally, as your hamstrings lengthen, or to deepen the stretch of your hamstrings, try to reach forwards even further. But rather than bending your spine focus on lengthening it as you inhale.

    relaxed seated forward bend yoga position, yoga pose, seated hamstring stretch spine long, arms reaching forwards

    If you find that your back rounds excessively in this pose or you have difficulty lengthening your spine the tips in seated forward bend may help.

    Modified Heron Pose

    In the previous seated hamstring stretches you tilted you pelvis forwards relative to your thigh (or attempted to.)

    In this compass pose preparation, you can move the leg relative to the pelvis to stretch the hamstrings, one leg at a time.

    modified heron pose, knee bent, hamstring stretch, knee straight, spine long, yoga pose, head pulled back and up, chin down towards chest.

    Here too you can lengthen your spine. You can also press the foot of your bent knee leg into the floor. But so that you can straighten your leg in this yoga pose, relax your shoulders.

    I've included a step-by-step in seated hamstring stretch.

    If you can straighten your leg in the above pose then you might want to give compass pose a try.

    compass yoga pose, compass yoga pose alternatives and preparations, compass pose, binding yoga poses, shoulder stretches, leg stretches

    Counter Poses for Seated Hamstring Stretches

    You may find that it feels good to do ardha matsyendrasana after doing modified heron pose or just before it.

    Since seated hamstring stretches tend to stretch the hamstrings and open the back of the body, you can counter pose them by opening up the front of the body with back bending yoga poses like table top yoga pose and or reverse plank pose (purvottanasana).

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    Return to Stretches from Seated Hamstring Stretches


    Gumroad, Yoga for your shoulders, available in epub, pdf and mobi. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

    Gumroad, Yoga for your shoulders, available in epub, pdf and mobi. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

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