Sunday, 2 April 2017

Yoga anatomy bites - Hamstring strength vs flexibility

I need to do daily hamstring stretches because every day I have a walk, do a power walk and spend time sitting working on the computer-all activities that tighten hamstring muscles. Many of us have tight hamstrings and it is important to stretch the hamstrings in order to avoid lower back issues.  

The hamstrings are composed of three posterior thigh muscles, two on the medial (inner) thigh side and one on the lateral (outer) side.  They originate at the sit bones and attach to the tibia of the lower leg.  Poses such as supta padangusthasana, Intense side stretch, Revolved Triangle, standing forward bends, seated forward bends and wide angle seated forward bend will keep hamstrings stretched but overemphasis on stretching the hamstrings can lead to tiny tears in the hamstrings which may eventually cause pain at the back of the thigh and lower buttock when walking, straightening the leg, or bending over.  So as well as stretching, hamstrings need to be strengthened.  

The following short sequence is made up of some yoga poses that will strengthen the hamstrings.  To start spend a few minutes in Easy Pose to 'arrive' and allow your breath to settle.

Shoulder Bridge - lie back on your mat with your knees bent, your arms by your sides.  Inhale lift your hips, take your arms overhead.  Hold for a breath or two then exhale to lower your hips and bring your arms back down by your sides.  Repeat then hug your knees in to your chest.

Balancing Cat - come onto all fours.  Breathe in, bring your right knee into your chest, breathe out stretch your right leg back, foot flexed.  Breathe in, stretch your left arm forward.  Hold for a breath or two then lower.  Repeat second side.  Repeat both sides.  

Locust - come to lying on your tummy, arms by your sides, palms facing the side seam of your trousers, forehead to the mat.  Tuck your right toes and press your heel back.  Return the top of your foot to the mat.  Repeat with the left foot to lengthen out the back. Breathe in lift your head, chest, arms and legs.  Hold for a breath then lower.  Repeat.

Bow pose lie on your tummy with your arms by your sides, palms down, your forehead on the mat. Bend both knees and reach round with both hands to take hold of your ankles.  If you cannot reach you could use a yoga strap or equivalent round your ankles. Inhale and press your feet up and back, lifting your chest from the mat.  Hold for a few breaths and exhale to release.  Take a Child's Pose.  

If full Bow Pose is too much for you, try half Bow.  Lie with your arms stretched forward, forehead to the mat.  Bend the right knee and reach round with your right hand to hold your right ankle. Inhale and press the right foot up and back, lifting the chest from the mat.  Slide your left hand back and use the left hand to stabilise you.  Repeat second side then take a Child's Pose.

Warrior 2 -  come to standing in the middle of your mat with your hands on your hips and take your feet as wide as is comfortable.  Turn your right leg to the right and the toes of the left foot in 45 degrees, lining up the heel of the front foot with the instep of the back foot (men) or heel with heel (women). Inhale, stretch your arms out at shoulder height, lift your chest, exhale bend your right knee, turn to look down the fingers of your right hand.  To come out of the pose, inhale straighten the right knee, exhale hands to heart, turn your feet to face forward.  Repeat second side.

Reverse Plank - come into a seated position with your legs outstretched. Take your hands behind your hips fingers pointing back towards your hips.  Breathe in and lift your hips rolling the soles of your feet towards the mat. Keep the back of your neck long. To modify have the knees bent. 

Lie back on the mat and hug your knees in.

Spend five minutes in savasana to receive the benefits of your practice.

Please also see:-
'Yoga anatomy bites- flexion and extension'
'Yoga anatomy bites - adduction and abduction'
'Yoga anatomy bites- internal rotation and external rotation'

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