The hamstrings are the long muscles on the backs of your thighs that help to bend your knees. Just like the psoas, the hamstrings are in their contracted position while you sit, which shortens and makes them tight over time. The hamstrings are attached to the lower spine and when tight can put extra pressure on the lower vertebrae, resulting in lower back pain. Stretching the hamstrings is important for everyone but especially people who sit all day. The stretch below can help keep your hamstrings limber.

Wide-legged Forward Fold

The Wide-legged Forward Fold offers a deep hamstring stretch. Be sure to move slowly into and out of either of the variations described below.
Note: A wider stance will offer a deeper stretch in your inner thighs, and a narrower stance will offer a deeper stretch in your hamstrings. Since we are focussing on the hamstrings here, there’s actually a lesser stretch there if you are someone who could almost do the splits. Perhaps try not widening your stance as far as you are able to do.

Variation 1 (gentler on lower back)

  • Stand up and place your hands on your hips.
  • Widen your stance, keeping the baby-toe edges of your feet parallel or slightly pigeon-toed.
  • Interlace your fingers behind your hips, and roll your shoulders back and down.
  • Round your spine as you bend forward and bring your arms up behind you and over your head, pressing your hands gently in the direction that you were facing before you bent forward. Stop before your shoulders become uncomfortable.
    Option: Hold a strap, necktie, or towel between your hands behind your back to separate your hands a few inches. The length of the strap between your hands should be based on comfort.
    Option: Flex your thigh muscles for a deeper stretch.

Wide-leggedFwdFoldArmsUp1

Variation 2 (gentler on shoulders)

  • Stand up and place your hands on your hips.
  • Widen your stance, keeping the baby-toe edges of your feet parallel or slightly pigeon-toed.
  • Inhale. Make your upper chest proud, but avoid puffing your chest. Bring your lower ribcage down towards your belly button as you draw your belly button in and up.
  • Bend forward with a straight back, bringing your fingertips or palms to the floor below your shoulders.
    Note: If your spine rounds before your fingers touch the floor, place a yoga block or other thick object under your hands. It’s more important to keep a straight back in this variation than it is to actually touch the floor.
    Option: Flex your thigh muscles for a deeper stretch.

Wide-leggedFwdFoldArmsDown1

Other Articles in this issue

FOMO (Article)
Your Body on Yoga: The Lower Back
Health Tip: Alcohol
Philosophy Byte: Satya
Eat Well: Chia Pudding
Balance At Work News: FALL 2015