The hamstrings, the strong beautiful hamstrings, are the muscles we never seem to have time to stretch. This powerful group of muscles, the biceps femoris, semimembranosus and the semitendinosus, power us forward with every bend of the knee, and assist  with just about every movement of our lower body. And because of this constant use and our culture of sitting, they get tight – very tight.

Spring and summer activities that we love, including biking, running, walking, hiking, gardening, team sports and summer water activities, are often hamstring intensive. It is  good to take dedicated time to stretch them, but not too fast and not too much.

The hamstrings attach to the base of the pelvis, often referred to as the “sit bones” and when the hamstrings are stretched, the pelvis gains freedom.  A bit of freedom is good, but too much can cause the low back to hurt. The hamstrings on each leg are often not symmetrical, which can lead to problems too. The tendency to stretch the easier leg often results in greater discrepancy, and avoidance of stretching altogether (runner’s stretch, anyone?).

Taking time to stretch the hamstrings is important. When the hamstrings are tight, the low back is often stiff, and any knee injury can be exacerbated.  Hamstring stretches should be held for 30 seconds, with just enough tension to feel a stretch, but should not be painful or cause the the jaw to clench.

Many yoga poses are good for hamstring lengthening, but the poses may not be held long enough to truly change the length of the muscle.  Adding yoga poses such as downward facing dog (adhomukhasvanasana) or a standing forward fold (uttanasana) at home, or doing your own hamstring stretch after your favorite summer activity, can go a long way toward achieving a balanced, strong and long muscular system.

The yoga wall also provides some innovative ways to lengthen the hamstrings. Check out our upcoming hamstring workshop on the yoga wall with instructor Erika Nestor.

Friday, June 2, 5:45-7:15 pm
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