Exercising within one’s ability is known to benefit physical and mental health tremendously. Not only does exercise produce feel-good hormones and has a relaxing and energizing effect, but it brings us in tune with ourselves and increases mindfulness by intensifying the connection with our body and environment. Yoga is a perfect example and regular stretching, such as hamstring stretches, helps optimize the experience.
The human body holds stress in a handful of places, shoulders, low back, and hamstrings. People who practice yoga find that the hamstrings are a challenging spot to get to stretch and release. This comes from tightness in the hips and low back pulling on the hamstrings. These hamstring stretches are appropriate to practice at the beginning of your practice and at the end of the practice because they allow the hamstrings to gentle release.
Begin the Stretch
While laying on your back, bring the right knee up to your chest. Hold on to the shin just below the knee. Hug the knee in as you inhale and exhale to begin the stretch. Your toes can be pointed or flexed, depending on the tightness of your hamstrings. Once you feel like you have relaxed them with the bent knee, the next step is to lengthen the leg toward the ceiling. Interlace the fingers behind the hamstring, just above the knee. To get the best stretch, have a strong grip and try to push your leg through the grip while keeping your head on the floor. You can add even more power to the stretch by keeping the left leg firmly pressing into the floor. If you have extremely tight hamstrings, you can modify the pose by bending the knee of the leg you are not stretching and keeping that foot firmly pressed into the floor.
Move into the Deeper Stretch
To stretch the inner thigh, groin, and hamstring, move the lifted right leg to the right. Use the right hand to support the leg as you lower it to the floor. Think about the heel of your right foot and try to press your energy through the heel to increase the stretch even more. To keep yourself from rolling to the right, hold your left hip down with your left hand and keep as much of your body on the floor as possible, especially both shoulders.
After a few breaths, carefully bring the leg back upright. Then, bend the knee and gently return the foot and the rest of the leg to the floor to switch to the left side. Do these stretches regularly and feel the benefits overall in your exercising routine and physical and mental health.