3 poses to keep your ham­strings healthy

Yoga Journal - - Practice Well -

SUPTA PADANGUSTHASANA Re­clin­ing Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose, vari­a­tion This clas­sic pose re­veals the truth be­hind your cur­rent ham­string length. By ly­ing on the floor with one foot against a wall, you can keep both your pelvic bones and spine in neu­tral po­si­tions as you ex­plore the range of mo­tion in your raised leg (which is per­mit­ted by the length of your ham­strings).

HOW TO Wrap a strap around the mid­dle of your right foot. Lie on the ground with the bot­tom of your left foot against a wall and your left toes pointed to­ward the ceil­ing. En­gage your core, main­tain­ing a neu­tral spine. Note the po­si­tion of both pelvic (ilia) bones as you be­gin; your ilia should never tilt or shift. Grasp the strap and bring your right hip into flex­ion with­out chang­ing the po­si­tion of your pelvis or spine. As soon as you feel a stretch on the back of your right thigh, stop pulling and breathe deeply. Once the stretch­ing sen­sa­tion dis­si­pates (30–60 sec­onds), switch sides.

STRENGTHEN-TO-LENGTHEN

CHAL­LENGE Har­ness the strap firmly around your heel, and try to push your right thigh back to­ward the ground with­out al­low­ing your thigh to move. Hold for 10–20 sec­onds. UTTANASANA Stand­ing For­ward Bend, vari­a­tion This Uttanasana asym­met­ri­cal vari­a­tion fa­vors a stretch in your outer ham­strings, the bi­ceps femoris. The pose is great for prac­ti­tion­ers who have a lim­ited range of mo­tion in their ham­strings.

HOW TO Be­gin in Uttanasana with both knees bent, feet hip-width apart. Place one block un­der your right foot and one next to the out­side of your left foot. Lean your weight for­ward as you try to straighten both knees. Walk your hands to the left to place them on the block, and lean your hips to the right to em­pha­size the stretch on your right hip and right ham­strings. Breathe deeply for 30–60 sec­onds, then switch sides. STRENGTHEN-TOLENGTHEN CHAL­LENGE Put pres­sure on the block un­der your foot and si­mul­ta­ne­ously try to slide it to the right with­out ac­tu­ally mov­ing it. Do this for 10–20 sec­onds, then re­peat on the other side. PURVOTTANASANA Up­ward Plank Pose This is one of the few clas­sic yoga poses that re­quires con­cen­tric con­trac­tion (short­en­ing) of the ham­strings along with the whole pos­te­rior chain of mus­cles—the calves, glutes, and back mus­cles. Thanks to our in­creas­ingly seden­tary life­styles, we tend to be weaker in the back of our bodies than in the front. This back-body strength­ener is an ex­cel­lent an­ti­dote to this com­mon prob­lem.

HOW TO Sit in Dan­dasana (Staff Pose) with your torso up­right and legs out­stretched in front of you. Slide your palms back­ward ap­prox­i­mately 9–12 inches, with your fin­gers point­ing to­ward your feet. (In the full ex­pres­sion of the fi­nal pose, your shoul­ders should stack above your wrists.) Point your toes so that the soles of your feet plant into the ground, then en­gage all of your back-body mus­cles to lift off the floor into a re­ver­sein­cline plank. In­ter­nally ro­tate your hips by squeez­ing your thighs to­ward one an­other. Hold the pose un­til you can no longer sus­tain all of these ac­tions.

STRENGTHEN-TO-LENGTHEN

CHAL­LENGE Try pulling your heels to­ward your bot­tom with­out al­low­ing your knees to bend. Even though your heels won’t move very far, you should feel your ham­strings en­gage, which will build strength.

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