• T
  • H
  • M
  • Yoga Stretches for Tight Hamstrings

    A general technique for stretching tight hamstrings is to practice stabilizing your legs and then relaxing them.

    You can then work at stretching the hamstrings while the legs are relaxed.

    To get a taste of activating and relaxing muscles we'll start with sideways or transverse yoga poses.

    Standing Side Bend Yoga Pose

    For the standing side bend I'd suggest contracting the short side of the body. If bending to the right, push your hips to the left and contract the right side of your waist, ribcage and the right side of both legs (the outer right thigh and the inner left thigh.)

    You can focus on smoothly contracting the right side and then smoothly relaxing. Then focus on smoothly opening the left side and then relax repeatedly. Then try both actions (contracting the right side and opening the left side) simultaneously.

    To add an arm stretch to this pose reach the arms up over the head. Try to make them feel long. Each time you activate the sides of your body try to draw the arms towards each other.

    Because the feet are parallel and facing straight ahead this pose may not affect thigh hamstrings. But it can be used to warm up the hips and it gives you a taste of both creating space and contracting or stabilizing.

    Triangle Pose for Tight Hamstrings

    Moving on from standing side bend the next stretch for tight hamstrings is triangle yoga pose.

    With feet wide and knees straight, turn your right foot out 90 degrees and your left foot inwards. Tilt your pelvis to the right carrying your upper body with it. This may add a slight stretch to the hamstring of the right leg.

    You can help rest your legs by placing your hand on your leg and pushing down with it so that it helps support the weight of your upper body.

    Slowly relax you arm and as you do so you may notice that your legs become tense in order to support your upper body. Memorize the feeling of your legs tensing and deliberately tense them to support the weight of your upper body. Your arm should relax naturally as a result. You can then lift it and reach it to the side. Then put your arm back down again, use it to support your upper body and to add a stretch to your hamstrings bend your elbow to allow your chest to move closer to your thigh.

    Repeat this a few times each time allowing your ribcage to sink a little bit deeper.

    So that your legs work harder during the active phase you can reach both arms to the side.

    Half Moon Pose

    Another "sideways" pose is half moon yoga pose.

    Keeping your pelvis facing the front turn your right foot outwards 90 degrees. Shift weight to your right foot and touch your right hand to the floor. If you can't reach the floor either bend your knee or use a yoga block (as shown in the pictures.) Lift your left leg and reach your left arm straight up. As for half moon pose you can practice making your foot and leg feel strong and with your weight over your foot, lift your hand.

    If you are using a block work at reducing the height of the block so that you gradually get your hand closer to the floor.
    If you have your hand on the floor work at gradually increasing the bend in your elbow so that your ribcage moves closer to your thigh.

    Wide Leg Forward Bend

    Wide leg forward bend can be a good stretch for tight hamstrings because it can be relatively easy to get your hands to the floor even with tight hamstrings.

    For the active portion of this exercise use arm strength to pull your ribcage towards your thighs. You'll probably notice that your legs will activate also. Relax and repeat a few times ideally drawing your ribcage a little closer to your thighs each time. Rather than using momentum try to move slowly and smoothly.

    Once you get comfortable using your arms, try putting your hands on your waist and use your hips and abs instead.

    Engaging Hip Extensors with Hip Extended

    For better hamstring and glute control in general, it can help to work on activating these muscles with the hip extended.

    Standing Leg Extension and High Lunge

    Balancing on one leg, you can practice extending the other leg. Rather than just reaching the leg back, start by bending your lumbar spine (and optionally, also the thoracic spine) backwards using your spinal erectors. Then extend the leg and as you do so focus on contracting your glutes and hamstrings. Keep the knee straight while doing so.

    Moving into a lunge position with one foot forwards and the other back, bend the front knee and rest the back knee on the floor. Spread your legs far enough front to back so that your front shin is nearly vertical when viewed from the side.

    You can start with your hands on the floor and practice straightening your back knee. Try to use your glutes and hamstrings to straighten the knee. Rather than focusing on pushing your foot down focus on pulling up on the knee so that your glutes and hamstrings engage. Next try the same action with your torso upright (hands can rest on your front knee.) Start with the knee on the floor and toes tucked under. Pull up on your knee to straighten it then slowly relax.

    Finally, after straightening the knee, use your spinal erectors to bend your spine backwards.

    Forward Bending Triangle Pose

    Forward bending triangle is perhaps one of my favorite postures for stretching tight hamstrings. Stand with your right foot forwards and left foot back. Turn your back foot out slightly so that you can keep your heel on the ground. Try to keep your hips facing the front. Keeping the knees straight bend forwards and if your hands can't touch the floor rest then on your shin or on yoga blocks or on the seat of a chair (ideally one that doesn't have wheels!)

    Relax your arms and notice the increased tension in your leg (particularly the front leg) as you do so. Now start by bracing both legs, and then relax and then lift your hands.

    Put your hands down, use them to support the weight of your body so that your legs can relax. Repeat a few times with a focus on activating and then relaxing the legs. Once you can feel your legs relax, you can then work at letting your chest sink closer to your thigh while your legs are relaxed. See if you can let your chest sink a little further down each time.

    To move into "revolved" triangle pose lift your right hand and turn your ribcage to the right.

    Here again you can practice bracing your legs prior to lifting your bottom hand off of the floor. The challenge can be in maintaining the twist while your hand is lifted.

    Forward Bend with Calf Stretch

    Bending forwards one more time, with feet about hip or shoulder width apart and parallel, place your hands on the floor (or on yoga blocks and lift your heels (not shown). Then switch and lift the fronts of your feet.

    Keep your knees straight while doing so.

    Repeat a few times holding each position for a breath or two.

    Return to Home Page from Stretches for Tight Hamstrings

    Return to Yoga for Flexibility

    Conscious Muscle Control

    Improve Strength and Flexibility

    What's New?

    Transverse Abdominal Exercises

    The transverse abdominis muscle can be broken down into three parts. Transverse abdominal exercises can thus affect the SI Joint, lumbar spine and the lower portion of the ribcage.

    Continue reading "Transverse Abdominal Exercises"

    Knee Strengthening Exercises

    To improve the resiliency of your knees it can help to exercise them in a variety of positions. The following yoga poses can be used as knee strengthening exercises. The trick is to activate your knees while doing them.

    Continue reading "Knee Strengthening Exercises"

    Quads and Superficial Hip Flexors

    Learn to consciously control your quads and hip flexors with Conscious Muscle Control: Quads and Superficial Hip Flexors. This downloadable video course teaches you how to feel and activate your quadriceps (the vastus muscles) as well as the rectus femoris, tensor fascae latae and sartorius muscles.

    Continue reading "Quads and Superficial Hip Flexors"

    Calf Stretches

    For any calf stretch you have to bend your ankle forwards to stretch the soleus and/or gastrocnemius. How you bend the ankle forwards can make the stretch more or less effective.

    Continue reading "Calf Stretches"

    Yoga for Flexibility

    Yoga for flexibility with stretches for the hips, quads, hamstrings, glutes, psoas, shoulders and arms. These yoga stretches are designed to improve flexiblity.

    Continue reading "Yoga for Flexibility"

    Learning to Activate Hamstrings and Glutes

    Glute and Hamstring activation can be used to compliment the quad and hip flexors for a balanced practice. Conscious Muscle Control: Hamstrings and Glutes is a video course designed to teach you how to activate your glutes and hamstrings at will. You'll also develop the ability to feel them activate and relax.

    Continue reading "Learning to Activate Hamstrings and Glutes"

    Learning to Activate Hamstrings and Glutes

    Glute and Hamstring activation can be used to compliment the quad and hip flexors for a balanced practice. Conscious Muscle Control: Hamstrings and Glutes is a video course designed to teach you how to activate your glutes and hamstrings at will. You'll also develop the ability to feel them activate and relax.

    Continue reading "Learning to Activate Hamstrings and Glutes"

    Learning to Activate your Quads and Superficial Hip Flexors

    Learn how to activate your quads and hip flexors so that you can use them at will. Conscious Muscle Control: Quads and Superficial Hip Flexors not only teaches you how to activate and relax your quads and hip flexors at will, it also teaches you how to feel when they are active and when they are relaxed. This clearly defined awareness can help you get more in touch with your body.

    Continue reading "Learning to Activate your Quads and Superficial Hip Flexors"

    Arm Supported Yoga Poses

    Arm supported yoga poses can be used to strengthen the arms and shoulders. Includes plank, chaturanga dandasana, downward dog, dolphin pose, side plank, wheel, reverse plank, table top pose.

    Continue reading "Arm Supported Yoga Poses"

    Stability in Yoga Poses

    Make your yoga poses less wobbly with less effort. Grounding and centering are two techniques for creating stability in yoga poses.

    Continue reading "Stability in Yoga Poses"

    Exercises in Muscle Control

    Exercises in muscle control 1 teachers you how to activate and relax your knees, hips, front and back of the leg and also inner and outer thighs. These activations can be used in standing poses as leg strenghtening exercises and to improve flexiblity.

    Continue reading "Exercises in Muscle Control"

    Transverse Abdominus Anatomy for Yoga Teachers

    The transverse abdominus muscle can affect the SI joint, lumbar and lower thoracic spine stability, used in various diaphragmatic breathing techniques and act as a tension adjuster for the rectus abdominus.

    Continue reading "Transverse Abdominus Anatomy for Yoga Teachers"

    Effectively Activating Transverse Abdominus

    Effectively Activating Transverse Abdominus can mean better stability for the SI Joint as well as for the lumbar and lower thoracic spine.

    Continue reading "Effectively Activating Transverse Abdominus"

    Joint Pain Yoga

    Rather than fighting through joint pain here is an overview of the approach that I've used to help alleviate hip pain, knee pain or shoulder joint pain while doing yoga poses.

    Continue reading "Joint Pain Yoga"

    Feeling Your Center of Gravity

    Make balancing easier. Use pressure sensitivity to feel your center of gravity.

    Continue reading "Feeling Your Center of Gravity"

    Camel Yoga Pose

    Camel Yoga Pose or ustrasana is a kneeling pose that can be used to stretch the hip flexors. One key action that may help in getting your pelvis forwards more is pushing your hands forwards, either against your feet or against the floor.

    Continue reading "Camel Yoga Pose"

    How to do Squats

    A yoga approach to how to do squats including how to stay balanced, and avoiding knee or hip pain even while going all the way down.

    Continue reading "How to do Squats"

    Transverse Abdominis and Sacroiliac Joint Stability

    The transverse abdominis can have an affect on sacroiliac joint stability as well as stability of the lumbar spine and the T12/L1 junction.

    Continue reading "Transverse Abdominis and Sacroiliac Joint Stability"

    Fluid Tensegrity Joint Anatomy

    Fluid tensegrity joint anatomy looks at the tendency of the body to maintain space within the joints. The question is, how is this space maintained?

    Continue reading "Fluid Tensegrity Joint Anatomy"

    Why Improve Body Awareness

    Why improve body awareness? So that you can use your body more effectively and fix problems yourself when they arise.

    Continue reading "Why Improve Body Awareness"

    Dealing with Pain and Poor Posture

    Basic Awareness

    Poses

    Actions and Exercises

    Basic Principles for Yoga Poses