My hammies have been quite tight lately, and because this is such a common complaint I wanted to share my favourite asanas for stretching and loosening hamstrings.
To stretch the deeper muscles in the backs of your legs, begin each stretch with slightly bent knees before easing them straight if that’s available to you. We also want to pair our stretches with strengthening postures to prevent injury.
Strength: Khandarasana (Bridge Pose)
For strengthening hamstrings, bridge pose is excellent. Lie flat on your back and press your palms into the floor by your sides. Bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet to the floor close to your buttocks. They can be hip-width or wide as your mat. Exhale, pressing firmly into your palms, while peeling your hips away from the floor towards the ceiling. Keep your knees squeezing together as if you’re gripping a beach ball between them. Raise your hips as high as possible and engage ujjayi breath. Lower slowly on an exhale, one vertebra at a time. You can repeat 3-5 times, moving with the breath up and down, or holding for a few breaths.
Rest for a few breaths on your back with knees bent before moving onto leg circles.
Warm-up Stretch: Leg Circles
Place both hands under the buttocks or lower back to support this area and prevent lower back strain. Raise one leg straight up to the ceiling (knee can be bent). Begin to draw circles in the air with your big toe, keeping the entire leg as straight as possible and the circles as wide as possible. Resting leg can be bent for further support. Complete 5 times clockwise, 5 times anti-clockwise, then repeat for other leg.
I love that this stretches my hamstrings in all directions, rather then the typical linear forward fold stretch.
Sumeruasana (Mountain Pose)
Begin in table top position. Spread your fingers as wide as possible, creating a stable base under your shoulders. Knees should be hip-width apart (about 2 fist-widths apart). Tuck the toes under and lift tailbone towards the sky. Take a few breaths to pedal out the feet, bringing the heels close to the floor. Remember to keep ears away from the shoulders and space between the shoulder blades, shining armpits down towards your mat.
You can adjust your feet if you need a longer stance, moving them towards the back of your mat.
Hold for 5-10 breaths.
Forward Trikonasana (Fwd Triangle Pose)
Begin standing at the front of your mat with feet hip-width apart. Step back with your right foot, keeping hips facing towards the front edge of your mat. Place your hands on hips and begin to fold forward from the hips, keeping spine long. Pull your right hip back, left hip slightly forward. Ground down into the big toe mound of your front foot, knee can bend slightly and track over 2nd toe.
Hold for 5 breaths. Repeat for other leg.
Uttita Hasta Padangustasana (Extended Hand-to-Foot Pose)
A bit of a more intermediate balance here!
Begin with feet hip width apart, feet firmly planted on the floor. Shift your weight into your left leg and take a drishdi, or focal point to gaze at. Bend your right knee up to your abdomen, reaching down to grasp thumb and first 2 fingers around your big toe in a yogi toe-hold. Take a breath to stabilise.
When you feel stable and able, begin to slowly extend that foot out in front until your leg is as straight as possible. Hold your gaze steady, squeeze the muscles of your standing leg and keep awareness in lengthening the spine. Breathe.
To release, bend the leg back into the abdomen, release the foot and firmly ground both feet into the floor. Take a few centring breaths in prayer pose, pranamasana. Repeat for other leg.
These asanas are great for adding into your daily practice if you need more focus on your hamstrings.
Peace and Light