When there are only a few people in yoga class, I generally ask people what areas or poses they want to work on. Hands down, the most common request is “can we work on stretching hamstrings”. While there are many ways to stretch the hamstrings, the best thing you can do before stretching is releasing! One way I like to incorporate this into my yoga flow classes is this quick and easy somatic hamstring release.
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Somatic Hamstring Release
How many people with tight hamstrings actually take the time to work on their lack of flexibility? Let’s be honest, the answer is probably not many. Because it’s the stuff that takes time, and we now live in a fast-paced world of instant gratification. However, flexibility cannot be rushed. This somatic release for the hamstrings takes about 5 minutes and should be a part of your yoga practice before poses like pyramid, janu sirsasana, or splits.
Warm up your spin with a little cat and cow then take a baseline of your hamstrings in downward facing dog. How do your hamstrings feel? Tight or loose? Is there a difference right to left? Maybe one leg feels straighter, or one heel touches the floor but the other doesn’t? Notice! Then come to lay face down on the floor.
This somatic hamstring isn’t something you can rush so here’s where you slow down! Lift the lower legs about 6-8″ of the floor. Hold for a few seconds, then SLOWLY release the legs back down to the floor. Slowly. The slower, the better. Don’t rush. Did I say slowly? This release down should take about 8-10 seconds. After the release take a breath, and then repeat twice more. At least three times in total. Notice:
- Does one leg feel like it lifts higher?
- Is there any desire to rush?
- Is one hamstring feeling more pressure when holding up the lower leg?
- Any cramping sensations?
- As you release is the movement fluid or staggered?
- Does one leg contact the floor before the other?
After the somatic hamstring release take a little prone windshield wiper. Push to all fours then press into downward facing dog to retest the hamstrings. Does anything feel different from your first down dog? This quick exercise can be done during your yoga flow warm up and easily incorporated into your personal home practice. Or if you want more, try my hamstring release with a tennis ball for a deeper release.
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- How flexible are your hamstrings?
- Are you blaming your tight hamstrings for lack of flexibility?
- What area of your body has mobility or flexibility issues?