Hamstring Exercises: Yoga For Hamstring Strength & Flexibility
While everyone else seems to be able to effortless reach their toes in a forward bend, you’re barely able to get your fingertips past your knees before body is yelling at you to stop.
Hamstrings can be tricky, and many of us suffer from chronically tight muscles in the backs of our legs.
Beyond the aesthetics of looking graceful on your yoga mat , there are important health reasons as to why one should stretch their hamstrings;but our hamstrings don't just need to be flexible!
These muscles are a veritable powerhouse in our lower body: without proper maintenance our hamstrings become weak and unable to perform their essential functions with painful consequences.
What Are The Hamstrings?
The hamstrings are a group of 3 muscles (the semitendinosus, the semimembranous, and the biceps femoris) located in the back of the thigh, and connect the sit bones to the bones of the lower leg.
These muscles work together to perform 2 important functions:
1. Knee flexion: The main function of your hamstrings is to bend the knee, as when walking, running and climbing stairs. They also serve to rotate the lower leg inwards or outwards, which is necessary to maintain correct placement as we walk.
2.Hip extension: The secondary role of the hamstrings is the enable the thigh to move backwards, such as when we go from sitting to standing or perform a squat. This function is also what provides the force necessary to propel us forward when running.
The Benefits of Happy Hamstrings
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery recommends athletes follow a daily routine of hamstring stretches and exercises to keep hamstrings functioning at their optimal level; (1) but even if you’re not a marathon runner there are many practical reasons you should be interested in increasing your hamstring flexibility and strength.
Posture & Pain Relief
Tight hamstrings can cause or exacerbate musculoskeletal issues leading to chronic back pain and poor posture.
When your hamstrings are tight they limit the natural motion of the pelvis, increasing the stress in the lower back. Overly inflexibly hamstrings pull on their attachment to the pelvis, giving it an anterior tilt - visible as an exaggerated curve in the lumbar spine. The result is that when you bend forward, the flexion has to come from the lower back muscles. (2)
If you suffer from Sciatica, a regular routine of hamstring stretches and exercises will help mediate your painful symptoms. (3)
One of the most valuable concepts I learned through my teacher training was that ideally we want to create a little bit of effort spread amongst many muscles when performing a yoga pose; but this also applies to every action we do with our bodies.
Tight or weak hamstrings prevent you from optimally distributing the work, causing unnecessary stress in the lower back as it’s forced to pick up the slack. (5)
Even seasoned athletes have a tendency to have strong calves and quads, but neglected hamstrings. This muscle imbalance means these other muscles have to work harder, exacerbating the problem and increasing the risk of injury.
Stretching your hamstrings can also improve your performance: When muscles are tight blood is unable to circulate properly within them, thus depriving them of the oxygen necessary to keep them functioning at peak capacity. (4)
Our hamstrings are our main source of power when it comes to performing explosive movements, such as when running and jumping. Having healthy hamstrings increases your speed and agility. (1)