Thursday, 4 August 2016

Protecting your hamstrings and lower back in seated forward bends

Seated forward bends are great for calming your mind and stretching your hamstrings.  Our hamstrings are often tight due to our lifestyles - sitting, walking, running, etc, etc all tighten our hamstrings.  BUT if you overstretch the hamstrings, move into forward bends too quickly or have weak hamstring muscles or tendons there is the potential to tear a hamstring muscle or tendon.  Also if the hamstring muscles are tight and you try to overstretch them, the hamstring muscles can contract in a reflex action.  It is not only your hamstrings which may by injured. Tendons attached to the hamstring muscles can pull on the sit bones if overstretched and flatten the natural curve of the lower spine.  The result may be a herniated disc.  

If you have tight hamstrings therefore it is really important to listen to your body and not push past your 'edge'.  It is far safer to gain hamstring flexibility in supta padangusthasana.  To practice this lie on your mat with your knees bent.  Bring your right knee close to your chest and take your belt around the ball of your right foot.  Straighten your leg bringing your right knee in line with your left.  If you have tight hamstrings this may be enough of a stretch for you at first.  Keep practicing until you reach the point where you are able to straighten your left leg on the mat and lift your right leg to make a 90 degree angle with your left.  Don't forget to repeat with the left leg raised.  'Walking the dog' that is deeply bending the knees alternately in Downward Facing Dog' will also help hamstring flexibility.

Supta padangusthasana

When you are ready to practice seated forward bends, sit on a block or folded blanket at first and as you move into the forward bend press your sit bones back.  

It is best to practice a modified version of seated forward bend initially.  Place your legs under the seat of a chair and bring your right cheek to rest on the chair seat or cushion.  Your arms can be either side of the chair seat, on the bars of the chair or by your sides.  Take 5 breaths then rest on your left cheek for another five breaths.

Supported seated forward bend

Another tip is to microbend your knees in seated forward bend.  Try moving into seated in a different way.  Sit with your knees bent and hold the sides of your feet so that your thighs and chest are in contact.  Breathe in and as you breathe out slide your feet forward.  If your chest and thighs start to move apart, you know you have reached your edge.  

You could also try contracting your quads in order to release your hamstrings.  This effect is known as reciprocal inhibition.  When you are coming into a seated forward bend hinge from the groin, do not bend from the waist.

Seated forward bend

We also focus so much on stretching our hamstrings that we forget that our hamstrings need to be strong too if we are to avoid injury.  I will be talking about this in next week's post.

Janet x

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