6 Yoga exercises with tools for shortened hamstrings
Hamstrings are muscle groups in the back of the thighs. Due to insufficient or one-sided movements, these muscles can become shortened, tense or hardened. Shortened muscles lead to poor posture, and poor posture leads to pain – and shortened hamstrings particularly affect your back. So if you, like a lot of people, suffer from back pain, it's worth not only working on your back itself, but also stretching and strengthening the back of your legs. We've put together six exercises for you, using practical yoga tools that will make your practice easier.
What you need:
- Yoga mat
- Yoga belt
- Fascia roll
- Two Blocks
- Yoga blanket
- Meditation cushion
- Optional: Zabuton
01 Arrive: Leg stretch with belt
- Lie with your back on your mat and consciously & deeply breathe in and out a few times; arrive on your mat.
- Place your right foot on your mat and keep your left leg stretched out.
- Take your yoga belt and place it around the sole of your right foot. Lift and stretch your leg towards the ceiling with the yoga belt’s help; flex your foot.
- If you cannot fully straighten your leg, this is a certain sign of shortened hamstrings; in this case just keep your leg slightly bent.
- Hold the position for a few breaths.
Tip: If it feels more comfortable to you, you can stand your left food up instead of keeping your leg stretched out. You can also use the belt to pull your right leg closer to you, piece by piece, in a springy movement and release it again.
02 Rolling out the back of your legs with a fascia roll
- Sit on your mat with your legs stretched out.
- Place the fascia roll under your thighs.
- Support yourself on the mat with your hands behind you and lift your buttocks off the mat.
- Now roll out the backs of your legs with your body weight.
- Repeat a few times.
Tip: Fascia rolls and balls are ideal for revitalising stuck fascia and releasing muscle tension. Start by applying light pressure to the roll and increase it when it feels right for you.
03 Downward Dog with Blocks
- Place both blocks shoulder-width apart at the top of your mat.
- With your hands on the blocks, first come into table top and stand up your toes
- Shift your body weight backwards, push your buttocks towards the ceiling and come into downward dog.
- With the help of the blocks you can keep your back stretched more easily and at the same time stretch your legs.
- Move your heels towards the mat alternately as if you were taking small steps. This also stretches the backs of your legs.
Tip: If you find it difficult to stretch your legs despite the blocks, keep them slightly bent. The small "walking" movements of your heels will still stretch the back of your legs.
04 Twisted Lizard with Blanket
- Place a folded blanket in the middle of your mat.
- From Downward Dog, bring your left leg forward and place your foot on the outside next to your left hand.
- Lower your right knee onto the blanket behind you.
- Lift your right foot, turn your upper body backwards over the left side and grasp your right foot with your left hand.
- Press your foot against your hand while simultaneously pulling your foot towards yourself.
- Inhale and exhale deeply a few times while creating pressure and counterpressure with your foot and hand.
- Release the twist, lower your back leg, come back into downward dog and then switch sides.
Tip: A yoga blanket not only helps you with various asanas, but you can also use it to keep yourself warm at the end of your yoga sequence - during savasana or a final meditation.
05 Seated Forward Bend with Blanket
- Sit on your mat with your legs stretched out.
- Place the rolled-up yoga blanket under the back of your knees so that your legs are slightly bent.
- Stretch your hands out to the front.
- Now, mindfully bend your stretched upper body to the front.
- Only go as far as it feels good to you and as far as you can keep your upper body straightened.
- Hold for a few breaths and then come back up slowly.
Tip: The blanket makes this exercise easier, but you do not neccessarily need it. You don't have to reach your feet with your hands like our model either. Just keep your hands stretched out in front of you or place them on your lower legs if you can't touch your feet. Which, by the way, is also a sign that the backs of your legs are shortened.
- Place your meditation cushion on your mat or, if you have one, your zabuton.
- Comfortably sit on your meditation cushion - either in tailor seat, lotus seat or on your heels.
- Place your hands on your knees or thighs and close your eyes if you like.
- Now inhale deeply through your nose into your flanks and fully exhale through your mouth.
- Re-feel the exercises from this yoga sequence; observe what the practice has done to your body, the backs of your legs, as you continue to breathe in and out deeply.
Tip: If you place your meditation cushion not in the middle, but at the front edge of your zabuton, so that your feet do not rest on the zabuton but on your mat, you can increase the sitting height of your meditation cushion. This makes it easier for you to get into a cross-legged position even if you have shortened back legs or stiff hips.