Updated: Mar 28
Do you suffer from tight hamstrings? And are you interested in learning which yoga stretches you can do in just 5 minutes to improve your flexibility?
In this blog I’ll be exploring some of the most common reasons that our hamstrings feel tight and how you can use a short 5 minute yoga practice to help release tension and improve mobility.
Want to jump right into the practice? Follow Irene’s guided 5 minute yoga practice of forward bends on YouTube focused on stretching your hamstrings and increasing your flexibility.
Why Do Our Hamstrings Get So Tight?
Our hamstrings are a group of three muscles that we use often when we walk, cycle, run, and jump. As a result of using these muscles regularly many of us have tight hamstrings. For some of us we might only be aware of this tightness when doing yoga stretches while for others it might be noticeable that our hamstrings are tight doing everyday actions like sitting and standing.
When our hamstring muscles are tight due to actively using these muscles one of the most helpful ways to loosen your hamstrings is through yoga poses focused on stretching this area.
Do watch out though if you are finding that your hamstrings feel extremely tight and you’re only focusing on stretching them. Muscles can also feel tight and overworked because they are weak.
For weak hamstring muscles it’s helpful to not only stretch your hamstrings but also do other yoga postures (such as the Locust Pose, Salabhasana) or strength training exercises (such as Squats and Hamstring Curls). This will allow your hamstrings to be more balanced between strength and flexibility.
How Often Should You Stretch Tight Hamstrings?
One of the best exercises for tight hamstrings is to focus on doing several different yoga poses for hamstring flexibility regularly. Doing a short yoga practice that includes hamstring stretches at least three times a week will help you start to notice improvements to your flexibility. If you do other sports that focus on strengthening your hamstrings it can be great to add at the end of workout a short 5 minute stretch of the muscles you’ve been working.
I always recommend new yoga practitioners to try and aim towards practicing three times a week, even if you just have time to do a 5 minute practice. In fact, practicing a little bit of yoga frequently can have far more benefits than doing one longer practice once a week. This is where learning how to practice yoga at home can be a real advantage since it allows you to add easily in short yoga practices into a busy schedule.
How to Release Tight Hamstrings
Try out these three easy yoga poses to help increase flexibility in your hamstrings. Or be guided by Irene in her 5 minute YouTube yoga practice for hamstring flexibility.
(1) Standing Forward Bend Stretch | Uttanasana
Allow your knees to bend as much as you need so that you feel a gentle stretch in the hamstrings. You could stay the first few breaths in the pose with the knees bent a little deeper and then see how it feels to gradually work on lengthening your legs and leaning your weight a bit more forward towards your toes.
Really use your breath to ease your body into the posture. Using your inhale to lengthen as much as you can you spine and your exhale to release your head and neck. You can stay here for 5 – 20 breaths.
(2) Downward Facing Dog Stretch | Adho Mukha Svanasana
Like for the Standing Forward Bend Pose you can choose for yourself how much you want to bend the knees here as you work on loosening and lengthening your hamstrings. If the stretch feels intense you could try also lifting your heels from the ground.
It can feel nice to alternate bending one leg a little deeper and work on lengthening the opposite leg. So you could start with both legs bent and both heels lifted. And then start with lengthening one leg and allowing that heel to drop, as you bend a little deeper the opposite leg. You can move back and forth bending and straightening the legs a few times, linking the movement with your breath.
After adding movement into your Downward Dog for a few breaths you can pause anywhere from 5 – 10 breaths in the pose.
Half Splits Pose | Ardha Hanumanasana
As with the other forward bends it’s also possible in the Half Splits Pose to bend slightly the knee of the extended leg to gauge for yourself how much stretch feels comfortable in the hamstring.
Allow here your outstretched leg to be long and active by pressing the ball of your foot away. See if you can keep your spine as long as possible by lengthening from your lower back and keeping your chest open.
See if you can stay in the pose for at least 5 breaths and feeling free to stay a little longer if that feels comfortable. You could choose to do each side once or repeat the posture 3 – 5 times on each side.
I hope you find these tips helpful to use these simple forward bends to relieve tight hamstrings. And as someone that has suffered from tight hamstrings due to them being weak rather than overworked, do remember that stretching a tight muscle can help to release tension but that for that perfect balance you might also want to address strengthening the muscle too 😊
As I mentioned, I'd recommend aiming to practice this forward bends yoga sequence around three times a week to get the best results. But of course if you aren't able to make three times a week it will still be a great step forward if you get started with only once or twice a week. And see over time how you can start forming a new habit of adding yoga into your day.
If you’re interested to learn more about forward bends and the technique and alignment principles in the seated forward bend check out my other blog post: 5 poses to improve your forward fold in yoga.
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