Tight hamstrings don’t just plague dads or dudes. Our thigh muscles — quads in the front, hamstrings in the back — rarely get the release they need, making them an area of common complaint. In addition to over-or-underusing those muscles and not stretching accordingly, tightness or limited mobility in the hamstrings can also be a low back problem. Our sciatic nerve begins around the base of the pelvis and runs down the legs — any pressure put on that nerve sends a shock wave down the hamstrings, causing them to tighten.
This sequence targets the inner, central and outer muscles that make up the hamstrings. But, just like any other muscle group, the hamstrings don’t work alone. Strong quads, an engaged core and a stabilized low back are all pieces of the open hamstring pie. So if tight hamstrings are your thing — be you dad, dude or daughter — luxuriate in these good-kind-of-groan inducing stretches, but don’t forget to tune into the rest of your body.
Here are the poses:
- Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
- Down Dog
- Parsvottanasana (Pyramid Pose)
- Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle)
- Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Angle Forward Fold)
- Paschimotanasana (Seated Forward Fold)
First step: Use blocks! The hamstrings love them.
With feet hip-width distance apart, find an easy forward fold, knees slightly bent, hands on blocks. Lift your toes to find the four corners of your feet. Lay them down one at a time and engage from the ground up. Stay here for several breaths, slowly moving your thighs to the wall behind you, hips stacked on top of knees. After several rounds of breath, see if you can lower the blocks. You may have already created more space.
Step back into Downward Facing Dog. Bend your knees, tilt your tailbone up to the sky, lower your heels toward the floor and straighten your legs. Hello! Take slow pulses with each leg, bending one knee and then the other.
Step your right foot between your hands and adjust your back foot for Parsvottanasana (Pyramid Pose). Feet are similar to Warrior One with a slightly shorter stance (or shorter still depending on the length of your hamstrings).
Straighten through both legs, bring your hands to your hips and hinge forward, out and over your right leg. Fold over the front leg, hands on blocks on either side of the foot. After several rounds of breath here — lengthening forward on in the inhale, releasing crown of head toward the floor on the exhale — keep your left hand on the block and turn your belly, chest and collarbones to the right. Stack your shoulders and raise your right arm up to the ceiling for Revolved Triangle.
Keep moving your right hip back in space. Lower the right hand down when you’re ready. Turn your right toes in, walk your hands to the left and parallel your feet, toes pointing toward the long edge of your mat.
You’re in Prasarita Padottanasana. Press down through the outer edges of your feet. You’ll most likely feel this in the inner hamstring muscles. See if you can find an outward rotation of the thighs, keeping your hips and pelvis stacked (read: don’t stick your toosh out behind you).
Fingers are in line with toes, on the floor or your blocks. Spine and neck are long. The longer you stay, the deeper the release. When you’ve had enough turn to the back of your mat and rise up. Take Pyramid and Revolved Triangle on the left. Return to Wide Angle Forward Fold and then turn to the top of the mat. Rise up to stand and make your way to the floor.
Extend your legs out long in front of you, for Paschimotanasana (Seated Forward Fold). Flex your toes, stay active in the quads, lengthen through your spine and hinge forward, moving the top of your head toward the tops of your feet.
Option to take this pose as pictured below, with one leg extended at a time. You may find a greater stretch through the back of the extended hamstring.
You’ve come to the end. After your forward fold, lower down on to your back for Shavasana, Corpse Pose. Don’t skimp on this one. Use this final pose to integrate all the opening, stretching, strengthening and toning you’ve just done.
Enjoy. You and your hamstrings deserve this. Happy Father’s Day!