Whether you exercise regularly or just enjoy doing yoga every now and then, there’s a good chance that you suffer from tight hamstrings.
The hamstrings are an important part of the body since they’re very active. Walking, sitting, standing, running and just about any movements below your hips are going to engage your hamstrings. The more you use your hamstrings, the stronger they get.
However, many people don’t stretch their hamstrings, or they aren’t sure how to get a good stretch to loosen them up.
Here are six yoga poses that will loosen your hamstrings:
The classic stretch for your legs, any variation of a forward fold is going to work wonders for your hamstrings.
If this type of stretch is too difficult or if you aren’t flexible enough to reach down far enough, then place your hands on your hips and lower your upper body while keeping your back straight.
People of all types of flexibility can benefit from forward folds, and there are plenty of ways to make this more difficult if a regular forward fold is too easy. Grabbing your big toes or calves with your hands is a good way to get a deeper stretch.
Extended Triangle Pose
Starting from a warrior I position, shift more weight into your back leg and let your torso fall over your front leg. Make sure to keep both legs straight during this. Your torso and hips should be open to the side of the body.
From here, extend your bottom arm toward your front foot and your top arm up to the sky, make a “T” type shape with your upper body. Look up toward the arm that’s facing the sky.
If this pose hurts or is too difficult, feel free to bend the legs or place your front arm on your front leg, either on the shin or the thigh.
The best way to think of gate pose is as an easier form of triangle pose. Instead of standing, you’ll place one knee on the floor, straighten the other leg out to the side and lean toward the straightened leg using your arm as a brace.
If you’re able to keep your balance, extend the arm you aren’t using as a brace up toward the sky and turn the head to look at it.
Downward Facing Dog
Downward facing dog is a staple of yoga for a good reason. Of the many uses for this pose, loosening your hamstrings isn’t one you think of until you have tight hamstrings.
From downward facing dog, try “walking the dog,” or bending one knee and stretching the heel of the opposite leg down to the floor. Alternate back and forth between the two legs fa few times and then stretch back into downward facing dog. You should feel how much deeper you’re able to take your pose, and your hamstrings should already be feeling much looser.
This pose is easier if you have a towel or a strap nearby, and it’s best to warm up the hamstrings a little before jumping in.
Lay on your back with your legs flat on the floor. Raise one of them and, if you’re able, grab the big toe and draw the leg toward your chest without bending the knee.
This is difficult for most people to do, so many yogis opt to use a towel or a strap to grab the foot instead. Just grab both sides of the strap and tuck it under the ball of your foot so it won’t slip.
The toughest pose to hold on this list, warrior III is going to loosen up one hamstring while working out the other.
Warrior III takes a bit of balance, and nobody should expect to be an expert at this pose after their first time doing it. However, spending time in warrior III is going to help loosen and strengthen your hamstrings, making it easier to loosen up and stay loose in the future.
If you include all of these poses in your yoga practice, you’ll be strengthening your hamstrings while keeping them loose and extending your range of flexibility.
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