Whether you’re an athlete trying to bring your A-game or a desk job baddie trying to prevent aches and pains, tight hamstrings may really get in your way.
Tight hamstrings might put you at risk of a hamstring injury and contribute to muscle imbalances that cause low back and knee discomfort. Ugh.
However, a large body of studies has demonstrated that stretching helps increase hamstrings flexibility.
And if you practise yoga or want to learn more about it, a 2020 study discovered that yoga can enhance hamstrings flexibility, function in everyday activities, and athletic performance.
That sounds fantastic. So, what are the finest yoga postures for stretching out those hamstrings? Here are our top ten picks.
Yoga hamstring stretches that work
We’ll look at the following athlete-approved positions that will have you looser than your sh*tty trousers after 20 minutes of sitting:
Downward facing dog
Ah, old faithful. Downward dog is a simple yoga stance that everyone can execute. It will stretch your hamstrings and calves while also strengthening your upper body.
- Begin by assuming a high plank position (as if ready to execute a push-up).
- Shift your weight to your feet and hoist your a$$ into the air.
- Maintain proper alignment of your neck and spine.
- Don’t worry if your hamstrings are too tight to completely straighten your legs—a slight bend is OK for now.
- Hold the stance for 5-10 breaths before returning to the floor.
Reclined big toe pose
When you’re watching the Olympics, you know how the sprinters warm up with those huge, slightly ridiculous-looking kicks before they get into the blocks? That’s essentially what you’ll be doing here, only you’ll be lying down and looking awesome. Excellent for your hamstrings, calves, and lower back.
- Lie on your back.
- Bring your knee up to your chest and hug it tight.
- To deepen the stretch, straighten your leg up toward the ceiling while grasping the back of your thigh. (Alternatively, you may wrap a yoga strap or a belt over the bottom of your foot.)
- Maintain the position for 5-10 breaths.
- Bend your knee so that your leg returns to your chest. Swap legs and repeat.
This position is deceptively fantastic and is another great one for beginners. It demonstrates that you can stretch your hamstrings, groyne, and hips while simultaneously loosening up your shoulders without twisting yourself into a pretzel.
- Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart or slightly wider.
- Maintain a right triangle with your legs by keeping your left toes facing the same direction as your torso and turning your right leg outward from the hip (ugh, geometry).
- Lift your arms into a T shape.
- Maintaining a tall spine, hinge at the waist, and reaching your right hand in the same direction as your right foot, as if reaching across a table.
- When you can’t go any farther, tilt your torso so your left-hand reaches for the ceiling and your right-hand reaches for the ground. Your right hand can be placed on your shin, ankle, a block, or the floor.
- Both shoulders and hands should be in a straight vertical line above your right ankle at this point. Maintain an open chest and belly to the long side of your mat (if you’re using one).
- Turn your head to look up at your left hand if it feels pleasant.
- Hold for 5-10 breaths before slowly releasing the stance and repeating on the other side.
Standing forward fold
This stance achieves exactly what the name implies – you fold yourself in half. While it may seem a little scary, don’t worry; this is a beginner-friendly pose that will stretch your hamstrings and calves.
- Begin with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.
- Bend over at the hips until your palms are on your shins, ankles, or the floor in one beautiful motion.
- You can slightly bend your knees, but try to maintain them as straight as possible. Your hamstrings will be grateful!
- Allow your head to drop down and relax while maintaining your legs extended.
- The stance may be held for up to a minute. If you can, get back up early.
Wide-legged forward fold
We’re folding over again… but this time we’re taking it a step further. Prepare to headbutt the floor, so practising this on a yoga mat or carpeted area is a good idea.
- Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart, toes forward — as far as you can comfortably go.
- Begin folding yourself over gradually. There’s no need to haste.
- Put your hands on the ground. Begin walking them back until they are in line with your feet.
- The aim is to contact the ground with the top of your head without moving your lower body.
- Look behind you at the upside-down world. Isn’t it fun?
- If you can, hold the stance for a minute. Remove yourself from the situation by placing your hands back on the ground, and slowly unfolding yourself back to upright.
- Begin by placing your feet hip-width apart.
- Step back with your right foot, leaving about 12 inches between your left heel and right toes. (You can take a step back if you like; experiment to find the optimal stretch.)
- While keeping your left leg straight, bend at the hips and fold over your leg. You can keep your hands on your hips, in the centre of your chest, or behind your back.
- Hold for five breaths before rising. Rep on the opposite side.
This is essentially a Spiderman position (sorry, no upside-down kiss). It’s great for your hamstrings, but also your hips and back, and it’s especially useful if you sit at a desk for lengthy periods of time.
- Begin with your feet wider than hip-width apart, toes pointed forward.
- Bend your left leg as though executing a half-squat, but maintain your right leg straight. (Make sure your left knee is above your left ankle.) Continue walking until your hands can touch the earth. You are now Spiderman Classic.
- You’ll find yourself leaning to the left, which is quite normal. Continue to press into the ground with your feet to keep your body raised. If you sink too far, you’ll most likely fall on your buttocks (if this occurs, Spidey, laugh it off and try again!).
- Hold the posture for 5 seconds.
- Push yourself up to your starting posture with your hands, then bend your right leg and repeat.
Half split pose
This one works the hamstrings, hips, and lower back. Nice and simple, and it makes you look like a top athlete without any of the effort (and sadly, without any of the wages, cry).
- Begin on your hands and knees.
- Step your right foot forward between your hands into a knee-down lunge while keeping your left knee on the floor.
- Find your equilibrium by bringing your hands up to your hips.
- Begin to straighten your right leg by shifting your hips back. You may need to move your left leg back slightly to keep things feeling comfortable. Your hips should be higher than your left knee.
- Fold your body forward as far as you are comfortable. Keep your hands on your hips or rest them on each side of your right shin/ankle/foot on blocks or the floor. Do you.
- Hold the posture for 5 seconds.
- Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
Yoga hamstring stretches for advanced practitioners
The latter two postures may require some time to master, as well as the assistance of an instructor. However, if you have prior yoga expertise, you may be able to jump right in.
Sleeping Vishnu pose
“Sleeping?” you may be wondering. “I can do it!”
It’s not quite that simple, as you’ll need to preserve your balance in order to get the most out of a stance that works your hamstrings, thighs, and glutes.
- Lie on your back.
- Roll onto your right side, using your right arm and hand to support your head up. This is when the cold factor comes into play.
- Bring your left leg up over your right leg (you can bend it if necessary) and grip your toes with your left hand.
- Hold for 5 seconds. Bring your leg back down and release your toe.
- Repeat the process on the opposite side.
The magnificent heron. While you may not appear as majestic as our bird friends in this stance, you will be exercising your hamstrings, calves, and quads. And do herons experience this when fishing? No, they don’t, so take advantage of this and feel superior.
- Sit on the floor, your legs straight out in front of you.
- Bend your left knee and draw your left leg back, almost as if you’re about to sit on it (but don’t: this is key). You want your foot to rest alongside your thigh). If this isn’t comfortable for you, you may try sitting on a yoga block.
- Bring your right knee in toward you, maintaining the bottom flat.
- Hold your right foot, gently lean back, and stretch your right leg out in front of you.
- Hold for five breaths while keeping your leg as straight as possible.
- Rep with your other leg.
What causes hamstring tightness?
If you participate in fast-paced activities that require a lot of running or kicking, such as football, soccer, or track, you are more prone to develop hamstrings problems.
When watching professional soccer, it may appear like at least one player every match pulls up with a strained hamstrings, such is the strain of all that sprinting and kicking. Tight hamstrings can also result from moving too slowly, such as if you sit at a computer all day. Yes, it appears that we are unable to win.
However, that tight sensation is generated by the hamstrings itself shrinking, which is why stretching is so crucial. Stretching those strings helps to restore them to their correct length, allowing you to resume your work.
Furthermore, completing stretching exercises on a daily basis helps to keep the hamstrings from shortening in the first place. When the symptoms of tight hamstrings include: a snapping sensation, cramping discomfort, swelling, and redness… it’s definitely something you want to avoid if at all possible.
When should you see a doctor?
A 2019 study discovered that instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilisation and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (two typical physical therapy strategies for promoting flexibility) are more effective than static stretching alone for improving hamstring flexibility.
If you’re an athlete (or just like to exercise) and have excessively tight hammies, you should consult with a health expert to determine if physical therapy is a good option for you. A physical therapist can assist you in developing a strategy to recover your flexibility.
Tight hamstrings may be a problem for anybody who participates in sports or even if you’re just sitting at your desk. Consistent stretching and yoga, on the other hand, can be excellent techniques to regain flexibility.
There are a few pretty basic postures that won’t have you twisting yourself up into knots that may really help out those hams — plus they’ll also stretch your calves, hips, and back.
Give them a go, and you’ll be back to being the sports legend you once were in no time.