Inflexibility is one of the most common roots of chronic musculoskeletal pain. Sitting in a chair for most of the day (and laying down in a bed for the entire night) predisposes us 21st century humans to be tight, especially in the hamstrings.
Luckily, it isn't hard to stretch your hamstrings if you know how to let nature take control. And by nature, I mean the universal force of gravity! Gravity is a consistent force and when one submits to gravity, it takes a lot of the effort out of the stretch and makes the whole experience more enjoyable.
Here are four poses to stretch those hamstrings and make it easier than ever to stay flexible!
A standing forward bend, or Uttanasana in Sanskrit, is a powerful way to stretch the hamstrings. The force of gravity on the torso and trunk, assuming you are keeping a flat back and fixed knees while avoiding any hyperextension, will result in a wonderfully relaxing stretch on the hamstring on the posterior crural region. You may also put your toes over your finger tips to stabilize the position and really relax into the asana.
A modification of this pose is to bring one leg behind the other and perform the same forward bend, emphasizing the hamstrings of your posterior leg and adding in some balance work.
A sitting forward bend, or Pashimottanasana in Sanskrit, is a great forward bend that will use gravity if you are flexible enough, Relaxing the neck muscles and allowing the weight of your head (a whopping ten pounds!) will really give the hamstrings a wonderful stretch. Once again, you do not want to extend your spine in a way such that it curls half way through and redistributes some of that tension to the lower back since we are focusing on hamstrings here. Try to grab your big toes with your index finger and middle finger if you need some extra pull!
A high lunge, or Utthita Ashwa Sanchalanasana in Sanskrit, is great for both toning the legs and stretching the groin. You will really feel a release in the hamstrings of your forward leg if you release your trunk and neck muscles, thereby attempting to bring your head to the floor or rest it on a support depending on your ability level.
Finally, plow pose, or Halasana in Sanskrit, is my favorite way to stretch the hamstrings and really turns things on its head (zing!) when it comes to stretching the hamstrings. In addition to the hamstrings, this stretches and strengthens your upper back muscles, your shoulders, your neck, and can actually be quite relaxing once you ease into it. I recommend putting your shoulders on a thin blanket and allowing your head to rest off the edge to keep your neck and upper trapezius muscles from taking too much hard force. You may begin by putting your feet against a wall to lower yourself into the pose at your own pace, but once you get past that support, you will be able to really let gravity do all the work for you so long as you keep your legs straight and flex those toes towards your belly.
What are some of your favorite stretches?
Best of luck and namaste~