Tight hamstrings? You’re not alone! Hamstring tightness and soreness is probably the number one complaint we hear about in yoga classes. Tight hamstrings can be a real “pain in the bum” (to put it literally) for many of our yogis who love to run. Running has taken our cities by storm, and there’s no doubt it has done wonders for our overall health and fitness. But all too often it’s our hamstrings that end up bearing the brunt as we clock up the miles.
Our hamstrings make up three different muscle groups: semitendinosus, semimembranosus and biceps femoris. These three muscles are responsible for the flexing of the knee, allowing us to lift our foot and kick it back each time we run or jog. When we overuse or aggravate these muscles their response is to tense up and contract. And there’s no mistaking the fiery wrath of an over-worked hamstring!
Why is yoga good for tight hamstrings?
Fortunately, with the right stretching and know-how, we can give the love back to our hamstrings. Sitting at opposite ends of the spectrum, yoga and running compliment each other perfectly, helping to fill in the gaps where the other lacks. Practising just a handful of specific postures before and/or after a long running session can help to stretch and gently lengthen the hamstring muscles and generally release any built-up tension in the body.
And it’s not just in stretching that we see the benefits of practising yoga for runners. At its very core, yoga teaches the awareness of breath. Strong, rhythmic breathing is essential to any kind of exercise, especially running. Yoga can help us both improve breathing patterns and increase lung capacity, sending more oxygen to our muscles for a boost in performance and endurance.
Try our free Happy Hamstrings class with Robyn Barritt! This is Part 1 of 4 classes focused on yoga poses that are perfect for runners with tight hamstrings. View all 4 classes here.
When targeting the right areas, practising yoga for hamstrings can be extremely beneficial. Check out our top 3 yoga poses to help you stretch tight hamstrings from every angle:
3 Yoga Poses for Tight Hamstrings
1. Forward Fold AKA Uttanasana (central hamstring stretch)
A simple forward fold is probably the most basic hamstring stretch in yoga and is accessible to all yogis, regardless of where you’re at in your practice. Uttanasana helps to softly lengthen and release tension in the hamstring muscles, whilst also stretching the back, and bringing an overall sense of calm to the body.
How to: Starting in mountain pose, inhale arms overhead and on the exhale swan dive your torso over your legs. Gently rest your hands wherever they feel comfortable, whether that be on your thighs, shins or the floor – the aim is to feel a stretch, without any sense of discomfort or strain. If you start to feel any pain, back off by gently bending the knees.
2. Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold AKA Prasarita Padottanasana (inner hamstring stretch)
Wide-legged standing forward fold provides a deep opening in the inner hamstring muscles whilst lengthening and stretching out the spine.
How to: Walk feet out into a wide stance towards the edges of your mat, pointing toes to face inward very slightly. Put your hands on your hips and hinge forward over the legs. Rest hands on the floor and lift kneecaps to activate the quadricep muscles (more activation here deepens the stretch on your hamstrings).
3. Pyramid Pose AKA Parsvottanasana (outer hamstring stretch)
This pose gently lengthens even the most stubborn hamstrings, alongside working the balance and strength of the legs.
How to: Starting in mountain pose, take a step back about 3-4 ft with your right leg, placing your right foot at a 60-degree angle. Square both hips so they’re facing forward. On the exhale, fold your torso over your front leg, hinging from the hips and keeping the spine long.
In April 2017, we laced on our running shoes in support of Sisu Not Silence, where social activist and sisu researcher Emilia Lahti will be racking up an incredible 1,500 miles running across the length of New Zealand (that’s an average of over 50 marathons in 50 days!). Sisu Not Silence is a powerful movement working to end the stigma around interpersonal violence, creating a community for survivors to regain their strength and reclaim ownership of their story.
Join Craig Norris for our charity class, Ahimsa & Relax, where we donated £1 for each yogi participant to Sisu Not Silence, raising awareness and support for those affected by domestic abuse and violence.
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