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  • Writer's pictureshannonkyeager

7 Yoga Poses to Stretch and Loosen Tight Hamstrings

Updated: Mar 9, 2023

Learn how to safely stretch your hamstrings using supportive props to ease stiffness, reduce pain and increase mobility.



Tight hamstrings are common after intense physical activity or sitting for long periods of time. As part of my morning routine, I often cycle or weight train before sitting down behind a desk to start the workday. This combination not only makes it more difficult to touch my toes, but it also impacts my performance and causes my lower back to ache.


The hamstrings consist of three muscles that run down the back of the leg and support movements like walking, running and jumping. Tight hamstrings can lead to stiffness, pain and increased risk of injury.


Yoga has helped me lengthen and release tension in my hamstrings, while keeping the supporting muscles active and increasing my mobility. In the video below, I share some of my favorite yoga poses to stretch the hamstrings at home after working out or to wind down each day. Make sure you are cleared by a doctor before exercising.



Let’s dive deeper into the hamstring stretches shown in the video. You can do these yoga poses separately if you are running short on time.


1. Table Top (Bharmanasana) With Extended Leg

  • Come onto your hands and knees. Align your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees

  • You can place a blanket underneath your knees for extra padding

  • Extend your right leg behind you and tuck your toes

  • Gently rock forward and back to stretch the back of your leg

  • Return to all fours in tabletop position (bharmanasana)

  • Repeat on the other side


2. Down Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) With Bent Knees

  • From table top (bharmanasana), spread your fingers wide, making an “L shape” with your thumb and index finger

  • Walk your feet back a few inches and tuck your toes

  • Lift your hips toward the ceiling and keep your knees slightly bent to avoid straining your hamstrings. It’s okay if your heels do not touch the mat

  • Lengthen your spine

  • Release tension in your neck

  • Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths


3. Forward Fold (Uttanasana) With Bent Knees

  • From downward facing dog (adho mukha svanasana), bend your knees, look forward and step to the top of your mat

  • Plant your feet hip distance apart with your toes facing forward

  • Shift two-thirds of your weight toward the balls of your feet, without letting your heels lift

  • Keep your knees bent to avoid straining your hamstrings

  • You can place your hands on blocks or rest your fingertips on the ground

  • Let your head hang heavy to release tension in your neck

  • Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths


4. Folding Twist (Parivrtta Uttanasana)

  • From forward fold (uttanasana), place your right hand down on the center of your mat

  • Bend your right knee

  • Begin twisting open to the left, initiating the movement from your rib cage. Use your exhale to deepen the twist

  • Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths

  • Return to forward fold (uttanasana)

  • Repeat on the second side


5. Half Splits (Ardha Hanumanasana)

  • From a low lunge position (anjaneyasana), place your finger tips on blocks or on the mat framing your foot

  • You can rest your back knee on a blanket for padding

  • Shift your weight back and begin straightening your front leg

  • Hinge forward from your hip to deepen the stretch

  • Flex your front foot and point your toes toward the ceiling

  • Align your neck with the rest of your spine

  • Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths

  • Re-bend your front knee returning to a low lunge position (anjaneyasana)

  • Switch legs and repeat on the other side


6. Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)

  • Take a seat. I recommend placing your sits bones on a blanket to elevate the ground and allow your pelvis to tilt forward slightly

  • Extend both legs out in front

  • Flex your feet, point your toes toward the ceiling and spread them wide

  • Inhale and reach your arms up over head, lengthening your spine

  • As you exhale, hinge forward until you feel your hamstrings stretch, initiating the movement from your hips. You can keep a slight bend in your knees to avoid straining your hamstrings

  • You can gently hold your calves, ankles or feet. If you have a strap, you can wrap it around the balls of your feet and use the strap to fold deeper

  • Align your neck with the rest of your spine

  • Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths


7. Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose I (Supta Padangusthasana I) With a Strap

  • Lay down on the ground

  • Plant your feet on the mat and bend your knees

  • Loop your strap around the ball of your right foot and hold both sides of the strap with both hands

  • Lift your right leg up toward the ceiling

  • Begin to straighten your right leg until you feel a stretch in your right hamstring. You can keep your knee slightly bend to avoid straining your hamstring. Flex your foot

  • Keep your elbows bent and let your upper arms rest on the ground to release tension in your shoulders

  • You can keep your left leg bent or you can extend the leg and root it down on the mat, flexing your left foot and keeping the toes facing up toward the ceiling for a deeper stretch

  • Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths

  • Transfer both sides of the strap into your right hand

  • Reach your left arm out to the side

  • Open your right leg to the right side and lower your leg until you feel your hip opening

  • Keep pressing your left leg down into the mat for stability

  • Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths

  • Bring your leg back to center and remove the strap from your foot

  • Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side


Here are more tips to stretch your hamstrings safely:

  • Before stretching your hamstrings, warm up your body by going for a 10 minute walk

  • Use a foam roller to massage the back of your legs and hamstrings

  • Stop stretching if you feel sharp pain, popping, tearing, swelling, tenderness or discoloration

  • Avoid stretching your hamstrings if you are hypermobile in your knee joints, have overstretched ligaments, are currently experiencing torn or inflamed hamstrings or have ruptured discs


Can you feel yourself grow taller as you stretch your hamstrings? I hope this sequence helps you find more space and comfort throughout the day. Share these recommendations with your coworkers, teammates, friends and family. Send me a message or leave me a comment and let me know which shape helped you release the most tension.


With gratitude,

Shannon

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