Can you believe it!?
I have not yet created a video solely for hamstring stretches.
When I write my blog posts, I try to link to relevant posts I’ve written previously if I mention something important and every time I’ve tried to link to a hamstring video I’m reminded that I haven’t created one!
So I fixed that.
A reminder about your edge
A word about “the edge” in yoga before you get started, plus a couple pointers to reiterate what you’ll hear me talk about in today’s video.
What do I mean by the edge? The “edge” is just before the point of no return and it’s a tricky balance because one could argue that you would have to know where the point of no return is to understand where the point right before it is. But since we’re yogis, we’re going to rely on our mega self-awareness and be okay with guessing where the edge is as long as we err on the side of caution.
Hamstring tears are no joke and no one wants to experience one. If you force your body farther then it can go, you put yourself at risk for injury. If you feel pain, then back off the stretch. If you feel a lot of discomfort but you can still easily breathe, then you’re probably okay and you’ve found your edge. If you have an inkling of a doubt in your mind that your muscles kind of feel like they could pull right off your leg, then you can probably back off a bit. When it comes to hamstring stretches, ease your way into them. Please.
Find your flat back
You’ll notice when you watch the video that all the stretches feature a flat back. This isn’t a back stretching video (coming soon…I don’t have one of those yet to link to either). The more you’re able to keep your back flat (which won’t be easy), the more you’ll feel the stretch in your hamstring. The forward flexion is happening from your hips, i.e. you are hinging from your hips rather then curling your spine forward.
You can always bend your knee more in any of these poses to lessen the stretch you’re feeling.
A quick hamstring anatomy lesson
This is interesting, I promise. Imagine a string tied between two posts. If you bring one of the posts closer, the string will slacken. If you pull one of the strings farther away, the string will tighten. This is essentially what is happening in your hamstrings.
Your hamstring is actually a group of muscles — biceps femoris is the lateral muscle and has both a long and a short head and the medial muscles are the semitendinosus and semimembranosus. You’d only ever need to know those names and directional terms if you’re taking an anatomy test, so you can forget that I just mentioned it. But it makes me sound smarter, right!?
Anyway, these muscles connect at the ischial tuberosity, also known as your sit bone or the bottom of your pelvic bone and the back of your knee at the other end. Thus your pelvic bone is one post in the above visualization, and your knee is the other post. If you tilt your pelvis (accomplished by hinging from your hips), you’ll pull your hip post further away creating more pull on the hamstring. If you bend your knee, you’ll move your knee post closer to the pelvis, creating more slack. See how that works?
And finally, a fun hamstring fact for the day before the video, compliments of Andrew Biel’s Trail Guide to the Body Revised 5th Edition…
“The term ‘hamstring’ originated in eighteenth-century England. Back then, butchers would display pig carcasses in their shop windows by hanging them from the long tendons at the back of the knee.”
With that lovely visual, on to the video. Have a great practice!