Below yoga sequence should be used as a guide by yoga teachers to create their own yoga class plans
Yoga for Tight Hamstrings
In general, tight hamstring muscles are an issue for most yoga students. They invariably lead to tight lower back and gluteus muscles. When these muscles become stiff, opening the hips becomes a challenge. Therefore, yoga teachers should emphasize the practice of certain standing yoga poses to open the hamstrings while stretching the lower back, and the gluteus maximus; for example, Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold Pose) at the beginners level.
When we extend or stretch the hamstrings, we are subconsciously opening the muscles around the hips and the lower back. Using the hamstrings effectively in the practice of certain yoga poses can make it far easier to open the hips thus preparing the yoga students for more challenging poses. Using the hamstring muscles in a less intelligent or even in an aggressive way, however, can lead to not only tendons and tissue damage to the ones that are connected to the hips and back of the thighs, but also leave the student with a sore lower back. Likewise, to open the hamstrings, sometimes working with the hips, lower back and the gluteus helps.
Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold) as Peak Pose in the given yoga sequence is to actively use the gluteus maximus (buttocks) and the muscles around the lower back to help get into the deep stretch of the hamstrings.Twists are an intelligent way to use the muscles around the lower back and the hips to create space for the hamstrings to stretch without causing too much effort. The given yoga sequence creates a flow towards Uttanasana and ends with a couple of deep hamstring stretches to create intensity.
Yoga for Tight Hamstrings (Uttanasana as Peak Pose): Yoga Poses, Cues, Steps, and Breathing instructions
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A. It is always good to start the yoga practice with the connection of the breath, and for this let us first go down on our backs in supine.
B. Lie down on the mat and stretch the legs out, arms away from the body, and settle the back comfortably on the mat.
C. Inhale and bring the legs to bend at the knees and place the soles of the feet to be in Supta Baddha Konasana or Reclining Bound Angle Pose.
D. Pressing the knees, if possible towards the floor, rest the entire back and stay here for about 8 breaths feeling the stretch at the inner thighs. This pose is only to open the up the leg muscles and not to done to improve flexibility.
A. Moving into the next pose, release from Reclining Bound Angle Pose and bend the knees pressing them against your chest, while lifting the thighs off the floor.
B. Placing a yogic strap around the soles of the feet while holding the ends with your hands, exhale and straighten the legs out.
C. Stretch the legs out going into a full 90 degrees with the legs, with the torso. Extend pulling the strap, in Legs Raised With Straps.
D. Feel the stretch around the hamstrings and using the abdominal muscles, stay here for about 8 breaths. It is ok if the knees bend a bit. The idea is to feel the stretch around the hips and the hamstrings.
A. From the stretch at the hamstrings in Legs Raised With Strap, release the legs from the strap and bring the legs down to rest in Savasana.
B. Inhale and raise the left leg up and while bending the knees, hold the left toe with your left hand. Exhale and press the left thighs towards your chest to go into Ardha Ananda Balasana or Half Happy Baby Pose.
C. Here at this pose the other leg remains stretched out on the floor. Feel the tightness around the left side of the hips and the pulling sensation of the left hamstrings. Close your eyes and feel the stretch as you remain here for about 4 breaths.
D. Release with an exhalation, rest and lift the right leg to go into the pose, holding it for 4 breaths. The opening of the hips along with the hamstrings is easier when the back is supported causing less wear and tear to any tendons or tissues.
A. Release and bring the leg down to rest in Savasana.
B. Inhale and raise the left leg again, and holding the left toes, stretch the leg out towards the left side reaching for the floor.
C. Focusing on the opening of the hips here, use the abdominal strength to take the legs towards the floor in Supta Padangusthasana B or Reclined Big Toe Pose B.
D. Placing the right hand on the floor at shoulder level, remain here for about 4 breaths, feeling the stretch not only at the hips and hamstrings, but at the gluteus too.
E. Release bring the leg back to rest in Savasana. Inhale and raise the right leg holding the toes to go into Reclined Big Toe Pose B, to feel the stretch on the right gluteus and right hips. Stay for about 4 breaths.
F. Idea with this pose practice is to open both sides of the hips and the back while feeling the intensity of the stretch.
A. Release from Supine poses and come to sit at the centre of the mat in Vajrasana or Thunderbolt pose.
B. Pressing the hips over the heels here in Vajrasana, helps to contract the hamstrings, which is like a counter movement to all the above poses in the sequence. Counter movement of muscles is a good way to keep the strength and flexibility of the muscles. They stay stronger.
C. Pressing the hips downwards and extending the spine upwards, place the hands on the thighs and remain for about 6 breaths.