I remember going to gymnastic classes when I was a child and finding forward bends and the like really quite challenging. I would sit there and notice the other little girls folding into forward bends quite effortlessly…. Not me! Tight hamstrings are something that I’ve really had to work on in my yoga practice and I’m definitely not alone in this. It’s something I hear students mentioning in class quite frequently.
Tight hamstrings can lead to problems with the lower back, knees and hips and can also limit the ability to practise a whole host of yoga poses. So opening them is really quite beneficial. However when trying to opening the hamstrings by practising a standing forward bend such as Utanasana, the hamstrings can pull down on the sitting bones, rotating the bottom of your pelvis forward which can stretch your lower back instead of your hamstrings leading to lower back strain. This is why Supta Padangusthasana Yoga Pose is a great pose for opening up the back of the legs.
To practise Reclining Big Toe pose, lie on your back with both knees bent. Bring the right knee into the chest and put a strap around the ball of the foot. Straighten your leg, bringing the sole of the foot up towards the sky.
If your hamstrings are tight your may notice the base of your pelvis is lifting up off the floor. To counteract this, bend your right knee until your sitting bones drop toward the floor. Hold the belt in each hand, keeping your elbows straight and the weight of your arms falling from your right foot. Keep your shoulders relaxed and make sure your shoulder blades remain on your mat. Do not lock the knee as this contracts the hamsting.
Allow yourself to relax into the pose. After a few breaths, on the exhale you may be able to draw the foot a little closer to the body but only do so if your pelvis isn’t lifting from the floor.
Remember it can take a long time to increase flexibility in the hamstrings. So don’t try and rush it but instead focus on enjoying the process 🙂