The importance of strong and flexible hamstrings cannot be ignored. These are the muscle tendons located at the back of the thighs, responsible for a range of movements associated with the hip and the knees. Hamstring injuries are fairly common in athletes and may take a long time to heal. This is where maintaining hamstring flexibility comes into play as it may prevent a range of injuries.
Yoga postures can help loosen up stiff hamstrings and provide them with much-needed flexibility. Slowly and steadily, a regular practice of yoga can strengthen the hamstrings and make them more flexible.
Here are some yoga postures that not only benefit the hamstrings but also go a long way in strengthening the body.
As the name of the pose goes, the asana is done in a similar fashion as you sit on a chair. While practising this pose, maintain some distance between both the knees to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on the thighs. Apart from boosting blood circulation, this asana works wonders in tightening and toning the abdominal and thigh muscles.
"In my years of practice, I have seen that strengthening thighs and calf muscles can help prevent fat accumulation in the abdominal region," says Yogi Anoop.
Keep some distance between both the legs and begin squatting as if you are going to sit on a chair. Ensure putting no pressure on the knees but only on the upper thighs, hip joint and on the hamstring. Keep your back straight. Go back up and repeat the exercise at least 20 times for 4 sets.
Those with spinal injury should avoid doing this asana. There should be no pain in the knees while practising this pose. Pain means the posture is not being done correctly. Those with arthritis should not perform this exercise.
The posture is also great for the ankles and strengthens the front thigh muscles, back and hip muscles.
Another yoga posture which is excellent for hamstrings is the triangle pose. It gives a good boost to blood circulation and is also beneficial for the stomach as it provides a good stretch to the large intestine. This is an excellent asana to cleanse the bowel and get rid of toxins.
Interlock your fingers and stretch into tadasana (tree pose) without raising heels from the ground. Keep your feet apart, at shoulder length. Breathe in and while exhaling bend to your right. Hold the pose for 2 to 4 seconds then come back. Repeat on the other side. Continue on both sides for 10 to 15 times.
Ensure that the spine is erect throughout the exercise and arms are not bent. You should feel a deep, nice stretch on your sides. The posture is excellent for reducing fat around the waist and on the sides. The spine also gets strengthened while performing this pose.
Also known as the wide-legged forward bend, this pose is good for improving the flexibility of the hamstrings. The asana stretches the sides of the navel and the waist and puts stress on the lower back. Practising this posture is also good for the bowel.
Join both legs, stand erect and keep calm while breathing deeply. Maintain at least three to four feet distance between both legs. Interlock your fingers and inhale deeply, now raise your arms upwards and bend backwards from the spine. Stay in that position for 5 to 10 seconds, do not hold your breath and continue to breathe normally. Now, exhale and bend forward. Repeat the exercise two to three times.
Make sure your arms and the spine are completely stretched backwards. Those who find it difficult to keep the head backwards should keep it straight with their arms stretched out. This way, one doesn't feel heaviness in the head. Those suffering from acute spondylitis should not perform this exercise
Apart from benefitting the hamstring, the asana also works on improving the flexibility of the spine and gives a nice stretch to the legs.
This is the second version of the wide-legged forward bend. It gives a nice stretch to the hamstrings and works on the spine, back muscles along with both the legs.
Begin by standing wide-legged, interlock the fingers and bend backwards. Inhale while going backwards and exhale while coming to the front. Make sure the spine is erect and the head is pointing upwards as if you are looking at the sky.
While inhaling, when you take your arms at the back, make sure you feel pressure on the upper stomach - the diaphragm area. Stretch your arms to such an extent that pressure is felt in the chest area. The spine should feel the pressure as well. Those suffering from slipped disc should not bend forwards while performing this pose.
The posture helps in strengthening the diaphragm, thereby flushing all the accumulated carbon out of the body. It also helps in normalising the blood circulation.
When the diaphragm is stretched, breathing becomes easier and smoother. The asana helps in overcoming digestive issues.
Always consult a certified yoga teacher before practising any exercise. These postures must always be performed under strict guidance and supervision.
Copyright - by Yogi Anoop