This Yoga Sequence Will Loosen Up Insanely Tight Hamstrings
Running and crazy-tight hamstrings seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly, but it doesn’t have to be that way! Hop on your mat after a run and do this short yoga sequence. It not only targets the backs of the legs, but also increases flexibility in the lower back and hips u2014 opening those areas is essential to decreasing tightness in the hamstrings.
| Wide-Legged Tipover Tuck
- Stand with your feet three to four feet apart, with the heels slightly wider than the toes.
- Inhale to interlace your hands behind you, pressing the heels of your palms together in a double fist. If this hurts your shoulders, hold opposite elbows instead.
- As you exhale, fold forward at the hips. Keep the legs straight, pressing your weight forward into your toes. Hold for five deep breaths (about 30 seconds).
| Extended Wide Squat
- From Wide-Legged Tipover Tuck, step your back foot to the front of your mat, bend the knees, and lower into a Wide Squat.
- Extend your arms in front of you and relax the head, feeling the stretch in your hips and lower back for five breaths.
- From Extended Wide Squat, slowly stand up with the feet hips-width distance apart.
- Fold the torso and rest the hands on the thighs, shins, or on the floor if you can reach.
- Shift weight forward into the toes to intensify the stretch in the backs of the legs.
- Stay like this for five deep breaths, nodding the head up and down and from side to side to release the neck.
- From Standing Forward Bend, hold the right big toe with the first two fingers and thumb of the right hand. Rest your left hand on the left hip.
- Shift weight into the left foot, and on an inhale, come to stand, raising the right leg into the air. If it’s too hard with the right leg straight, just bend the knee and focus on standing tall to open the hamstring on the standing leg.
- Tuck your tailbone in so your torso is in line with your standing leg. Hold for five breaths.
- From Standing Hand to Big Toe A, rotate your right leg out to the side, gazing over your left shoulder (bend the knee if you need to).
- Pull the right toes as high as you can, holding here for five deep breaths.
- From Standing Hand to Big Toe B, bring the right leg back to center. Bend the knee, lean forward, and kick the leg behind you.
- Reach your left arm out in front of you. Try to keep your chest open and your bottom leg straight.
- Enjoy this pose for five breaths.
- From Dancer, release hold of the right leg and step it forward so there is about three feet between your feet.
- Fold forward over your straight right leg, resting your hands on the hips or on either side of the front leg, breathing deeply for five breaths.
- From Intense Side Stretch, plant the palms on either side of the right foot.
- Kick the right leg behind you, coming into Three-Legged Dog.
- Take a breath in, and as you exhale, slowly lower the right foot toward the floor beside your left foot, but before it touches the ground, swing it back up to the right, making a circle and coming back to Three-Legged Dog.
- Repeat, circling the leg for a few breaths in this direction, and then reverse the direction of your circles for another few breaths.
- From Circling Three-Legged Dog, step your right foot forward beside your right hand, and lower your left knee to the floor, pointing the toes.
- Slowly lower your right knee to the right, so you’re resting on the outside of your right flexed foot. Keep your arms straight, pressing your chest forward to encourage your hips to lower, increasing the stretch.
- Gaze forward, and enjoy this pose for five breaths.
- From Open Lizard, draw the right knee back in, shift weight back, bending your left knee and straightening your right leg (the photo illustrates the other side).
- Fold toward your straight right leg coming into an easier variation of Split. If you need more of a stretch, inch the right heel away from you, lowering the hips toward the ground.
- You by no means need to go all the way down into a full Split! Hold wherever you feel a deep stretch in the right hamstring for five breaths.
- From Split or the Split Variation, rotate your torso so your shoulders are over the hips, lowering your tush to the floor, keeping the legs in a wide straddle.
- Turn to the right leg and fold over the thigh, breathing deeply for five breaths.
- From One-Legged Seated Straddle, bend your left knee, and place the sole of your foot against your right inner thigh, pulling your heel as close to your body as you can (the photo illustrates the other side).
- Stay folded over your right leg. Rest your hands on the floor on either side of your leg, on your shin, or wrap your hands around your right foot.
- Stay here for five breaths.
- From Head to Knee, sit up, keep the left knee bent. Bend your right knee, placing it on top of the left ankle. Your knees, shins, and ankles should be stacked with the shins parallel.
- To make this pose more intense, place your hands in front of your shins and walk them out as far as you can, folding your chest toward your legs.
- Stay here for five breaths.
- From Double Pigeon hold onto your lower right leg, and lie down with the left knee bent, and your left foot planted firmly on the floor.
- Raise your right leg into the air, holding behind the thigh, calf, the big toe, or place a strap over the arch of your foot.
- Keep your torso relaxed, and hold for five breaths.
- From Reclining Big Toe Pose, extend the left leg along the floor. Then lower the right leg out to the side.
- Gaze to the left, staying here for five breaths.
- From Reclining Big Toe B, hold onto your big toes and straighten your legs out as wide as you can.
- Keep your head and shoulders relaxed on the floor, enjoying this stretch for five deep breaths.
- Then bend the knees into the chest, rocking over the spine from head to tailbone. Rock all the way up to a standing position and repeat this sequence on the left side.
| Standing Forward Bend
| Standing Hand to Big Toe A
| Standing Hand to Big Toe B
| Intense Side Stretch
| Circling Three-Legged Dog
| Open Lizard
| One-Legged Seated Straddle
| Head to Knee
| Double Pigeon
| Reclining Big Toe A
| Reclining Big Toe B
| Reclining Straddle