“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”- Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Some of the most beautiful and difficult yoga asanas require a certain level of flexibility that can be difficult to obtain. While some people are naturally more flexible than others, many of us struggle with tight hamstrings. Not only do tight hamstrings inhibit flexibility, they also can cause lower back pain.
Unfortunately I wasn’t blessed with long hamstrings and it has been a journey so far but I’m beginning to see a difference. So here are 5 ways that actually seem to work.
1. Tennis Ball
Rolling a tennis ball on the soles of your feet is a great way to begin the process of lengthening your hamstrings. The foot is where the connective tissue to the hamstrings begins and so this is a good starting point. You get a nice foot massage in the process and you help loosen your hamstrings.
2. Uttanasana/Forward Fold
I initially didn’t take this pose as seriously as I should have. Most yoga instructors will tell you to bend your knees unless your stomach touches your thighs. In addition to bending your knees, you can place your hand underneath your feet so that your toes are up to your wrists. Then you can begin trying to straighten your legs. This is where you will feel the burn as your hamstrings try to stretch. I found that doing this has helped a lot.
3. Hip Flexors
Like Shakira said, The hips don’t lie! Tight hips are often the culprit for flexibility issues. The hamstrings and hip flexors both go hand in hand and must be stretched. One of my favorite poses to help open the hips is the Ekapada Raja Kapotasana/pigeon pose. Try a variety of different poses and eventually everything will flow like water.
4. Adho Mukha Shvanasana/Downward-Facing Dog
So this is a pose I’ve grown to love and hate. When I began this pose, I could keep my legs straight but my heels were high off the mat. Now, after doing this pose thousands of times (whether I wanted to or not) my heels are on the mat. You can bend your knees in downward dog but after doing this pose so many times, it will definitely help loosen your hamstrings.
5. Supta Padangusthasana/Reclining Big Toe Pose
In this pose, you lie on your back and lift one leg up with the bottom of your foot facing the ceiling and you grab your big toe. A yoga strap will help hold your leg as you stretch your hamstrings.
I really hope these tips help. Namaste!