By Leena Miller Cressman, QSY director and resident body-nerd.
One of my favorite well-informed yoga/anatomy-nerd bloggers, Jenni Rawlings, recently had a great blog post and video exercise reminding yogis to strengthen their hamstrings. A lot of yoga sequences and postures encourage flexibility and lengthening of the posterior chain of muscles, specifically the hamstrings.
Due to the amount of sitting we do in North America, the posterior chain becomes shortened for many people, and we lose range of motion in the hips and hamstrings in movements such as forward bends. Think of the difference in the geometry of the knee and hip, and the different loads and length of the muscles and connective tissue lining the back of the leg (from the ankle, up the calves, up hamstrings, up to the butt) in a standing position vs. a chair sitting position. In a seated position, the chair (or couch or car seat) acts like a sort of cast, holding the body in one static position and the
posterior chain can become shortened in that resting position. When it comes to mobility, when you don’t use it you lose it.
But, stretching isn’t the only way to improve range of motion and mobility. Strengthening is a great way to help increase range of motion too. This is commonly misunderstood. Much research has found that contrary to popular belief, strength training does not make you more “tight”, in fact it can help increase range of motion and functional mobility just as much, or possibly more than stretching.
You can read more about the stretching vs strengthening myth and how your body actually works it in this awesome, easily understandable, blog post: FACT CHECK: WILL STRENGTHENING YOUR TIGHT HAMSTRINGS MAKE THEM TIGHTER?
In light of this important reminder, I’ve been including lots of hamstring strengthening in my classes at QSY and for those of you practicing at home, I’ve designed this downloadable sequence with lots of poses that help strengthen the hamstrings.
Also, you can also check out this great exercise in a video from Jenni.
Let me us how it goes in the comments! And feel free to request other specialized sequences or videos you’d like to see on our blog.
Leena Miller Cressman is the director of Queen Street Yoga. Right now she’s in love with practicing the Tensegrity Repair Series, handstands and doing gentle twists over her bolster. You’ll also find her cruising around on her rusty but trusty bike, and tending to her community garden plot full of arugula, kale, and basil.