THUS ENDS OUR HAMSTRING WEEK
MY PHILOSOPHY OF HAMSTRINGS & PATIENCE
Working with our hamstrings teaches us about patience. The hamstrings are layered with lots of tough connective tissue—the gristly fibers that help hold the muscles' structure together. So you can't rush or hurry the hamstrings into flexibility; they need time to change their length—time in the sense that longer stretches (90 to 120 seconds) seem most effective with connective tissue. And time in the sense that it can take months, if not years, for tight hamstrings to loosen their grip and become flexible. So take your time and relax, the goal is the process even more so than the end result.
WHAT DO THEY DO?
The hamstrings have two primary actions: (1) knee flexion (bending the knee) and (2) hip extension.
- When you're squatting, your hips are flexed; you bring them into extension when you stand upright, placing the thighbones in line with the torso.
- When you stand on your right leg in Virabhadrasana III (Warrior Pose III) and lift your left leg to hold it parallel to the floor, your left hamstrings are creating hip extension. When you lie on your stomach, bend your knees, and lift your feet so you can grab your ankles for Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), the hamstrings are creating knee flexion. (The hamstrings also assist in rotational actions at the hip and knee.)
- To stretch your hamstrings, you need to keep your knee straight and flex your hip (in other words, fold the front of the thigh and the abdomen toward each other). One of yoga's classic hamstring stretches is Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), in which the knees are straight, the torso hangs down, and the abdomen eventually rests on the front of the thighs.
WHAT DOES THE QUAD DO?
- Contract your quadriceps (the muscles on the front of your thighs) in forward bends by simple actions like lifting your toes. If your hamstrings are tight, this is an excellent way to help them loosen up. The quads will stabilize your knees and hold them straight in forward bends. By contracting your quads, you'll be taking advantage of a kinesiological law called "reciprocal inhibition," in which your nervous system tells a muscle to let go of its contraction when the opposing muscle has work to do. In forward bends, contracting your quads facilitates the release of the hamstrings.
WHAT AND WHERE IS THE HAMSTRING MUSCLE?
- The hamstrings are the large group of three muscles that fill the back of the thigh.
- The hamstrings insert below the knee on the two lower leg bones, the tibia and fibula.
- Two of the muscles, the semitendinosus and the semimembranosus, are in the medial (inner) section of the thigh. The third, the biceps femoris, is in the lateral (outer) portion of the back of the thigh.
- All three muscles originate on the ischial tuberosity—the bony protuberance at the bottom of the pelvis that is commonly called the sitting bone—and the biceps femoris has an additional attachment on the back of the femur, or thighbone.
SUGGESTED POSES TO RELEASE HAMSTRINGS:
- Both hips are externally rotated
- This is abduction of both hips
- This is outer spiral
- How to perform: Hold feet and press elbows into the lower leg while firmely pressing up wiht the legs, hold for a few breaths then release slowly and press kneeds down with elbows. Repeat this process then squeeze outer buttock muscles and press lower and upper leg together
SEATED FORWARD BEND (PASCHIMOTTANASANA)
- Internal rotation of both legs
- This is adduction of both legs
- This is inner spiral
- How to perform: place hands at a point on thighs with bent knees and push into it breath in and then exhale relax deeper into the pose with legs more straight, Repeat this process a little at a time.
- Why this works: this small amount of pressure to trigger muscle spindles that helps release
HALF SPLITS (ARDHA HANUMANASANA)
- Contract front psoas muscle to go deeper by titling pelvis
- To stabilize hips one psoas is moving one way the other is moving in opposite direction. Try to drag back knee to front leg, drag front heel backwards to feel this.
- Contract back leg buttock and front leg quad strongly.
- Apply shins in manually with brick under calf.