Increase flexibility in your hamstrings with this yoga sequence.
Your hamstrings are the muscles found in the back of your thighs that help with knee flexion and hip extension. These muscles play an important role in physical activities like walking and running, and they impact many aspects your of physical movement. Many people lack flexibility in the hamstrings, and it’s important to target this area if you want your legs to become stronger. The good news is that tight hamstrings are easy to target using yoga. Try the five poses below to lengthen your hamstrings and increase your flexibility!
By Michelle Thielen
Standing Forward Fold
Find Mountain Pose with feet together or hip-width distance apart and lengthen the torso. Raise your arms, if desired. Hinge at the hips and fold your torso forward. Bend your knees as much as you need to. Press your heels into the earth as you let your head and neck hang heavy.
From Mountain Pose, bring hands to heart center, take a 3-foot step back with one foot, and turn the toes of your back foot slightly outward about 45 degrees. Keep both legs straight without locking the knees, hips squared to the front, and hinge at the hips to fold your torso over your front leg. Extend your hands to frame your front foot and root all four corners of both feet firmly into the earth. To find the full expression, tuck your chin to chest and bring forehead to knee. Bend your front knee as much as you need to to touch your forehead to your front knee.
Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose with Yoga Strap
Lie on your back and using a yoga strap around the arch of your foot, bend one knee in towards your face. Keep the leg extended and flex the toes back toward your face to anchor your tailbone to the mat. Hold for several deep breaths before switching sides. Over time, you can work up to holding this stretch for a full minute on each side.
From Mountain Pose, step one foot back. Both feet face directly forward, and the back knee drops down to the mat to find a low lunge. Straighten your front leg and peel your toes back towards your shin, keeping your hips directly over your knees. Place your hands on your hips or lean slightly forward.
Downward Facing Dog
From Standing Forward Fold, walk your hands and feet outward. Bend your knees, as needed, to find a long spine. Make an upside down “V” shape with your body, with hands about shoulder-width distance apart and feet about hip-width distance apart. Press your finger pads actively into the mat as you gently press your heels down towards the mat for a hamstring and calf stretch. Relax your head and neck and send your gaze towards your thighs.
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All images courtesy of Michelle Thielen / YogiApproved.com.