Top 5 Hamstring Stretches To Eliminate Stiffness
Reminder- You can perform each stretch statically, dynamically, and isometrically. Variety is key in functional fitness, so make sure you employ a variety of different ways in which you hold and perform each stretch. Although these are some of the best hamstring stretches available, there are many more that you should also employ. Static holds are best held for a minimum of 30 seconds, and remember to breathe and listen to your body first and foremost. Always consult a doctor before beginning any exercise program.
1. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
A classic standing yoga posture and one that is practiced in nearly every yoga class because it is part of both modern and classical sun salutations (Surya Nasaskaras). Find an upright standing position, then simply fold the torso down over the legs. The key to protecting the lower back in this pose is to keep the core engaged. To keep your core engaged, pull your navel back to your spine (Engagement of the transverse abdominis) and also gently lift your pelvic floor (Engagement of the perineal muscles). Once in this forward fold, with your core engaged, you can gently sway side to side, you can cross one leg in front of the other, and generally explore your range of motion. Remember that the hamstrings are a group of muscles, not just one, so we must stretch all of the different attachment and insertion points of the musculature. If you do anything on one side, make sure you do it on the other.
2. Pyramid Pose (Parsvottanasana)
For Pyramid pose, separate your feet front to back a few feet apart, and stagger the feet as wide as is necessary for you to keep your balance. The width and length the feet are spaced apart varies between everyone, so find what works for you. Straighten both legs, then fold the torso down over the front leg until you feel a stretch. Once here, as with all stretches, play with pivoting the foot different ways, walking the hands around the foot and exploring your full range of motion. Remember to breathe.
3. Revolved Triangle (Parivrtta Trikonasana)
This is an optional pose, as pyramid pose may be plenty for your body. If you feel the need to intensify pyramid pose, then you take it further by practicing revolved triangle. The stance is the same as pyramid. Whichever foot is in front, take the opposite hand and place it on the ground, a block, or the shin of the front leg, and take the other hand to the sky, twisting the torso and looking to the fingertips of the skyward hand. For instance, if you have the left leg in front, then take the right hand to the outside edge of the foot or shin and take the left hand to the sky. This will achieve a significantly deeper stretch in the hamstrings for those craving it.
4. Half Front To Back Splits (Ardha Hanumanasana)
Find something to support your knee, a blanket, bolster, pillow or a rolled up yoga mat works well. Once you've found something to protect your knee, come into a low lunge position. From here, extend the front leg straight and then fold your torso down over the extended front leg. You have the option of keeping your pelvis stacked over your knee or sitting back onto the heel of the back leg. Once here, breathe and enjoy the great hamstring stretch.
5. Seated, Half Cow Face
This posture is a hybrid between head to knee pose (Janu Shirshasana) and Cow-Face Pose (Gomukasana). To practice it, find a comfortable seated position on your glutes. If you need to sit on a blanket or pillow, feel free. Extend one leg straight in front of you, and take the other leg crossing it on top of the extended leg. Try to get the knees to stack on top of each other. Once here, fold forward over the legs.
Best wishes gaining flexibility in the hamstrings. And remember, be gentle, the hamstrings are very sensitive,