In my so-far brief yoga career, there is one large and particular area that keeps coming back to haunt me: my impossibly tight hamstrings. In the few years I’ve been practising, I have noticed very little release and improvement in this region. I have always had very tight hamstrings. I know this because I have a clear memory of being the only child in my ballet class who wept when the time came to do hamstring stretches.
Flash forward to now: I’ve been in yoga teacher training (YTT) since September in which there have been some really wonderful opportunities to focus on improving our personal approach to and alignment in specific postures. It has really been an exercise of checking my ego at the door because as it turns out, my tight hamstrings have turned me into something of a contortionist. By this I mean that without even realizing it, I’ve been cheating my way into many a posture by taking the load off of my hamstrings and dumping them into some other more willing body part.
Our YTT session last Sunday, for instance, consisted of 5 hours of arm balances and inversions. I have a pretty strong upper body, so I’m typically quite happy and comfortable to be upside down and balancing on my hands. I found out on Sunday that while I’m able to “get into” postures like eka pada kundinyasana and astavakrasana (eight-angle pose), all this time I’ve been taking the brunt of the work into anywhere but my hamstrings! And don’t even get me started about how my hamstrings feel in my Warrior I.
I often catch my ego telling me, “Push! Get into that funky arm balance whatever it takes!” But I know that if I want to move forward in certain postures and avoid injury, I have to reign in my ego and focus on my alignment by putting the effort back into the right body parts, namely my hamstrings.
My goal is to spend more time focusing on my hamstrings both in classes, and in designing my personal practice at home. Today, I worked with this hamstring flexibility video, which I found quite challenging. The postures are simple, but my hammies were definitely fired and working. If you’re hamstrings are in need of a stretch, and you want to give this video a try, I would recommend doing some warm up beforehand as the video jumps right into deep stretching.
Do you have a trouble spot in your yoga practice? What are you doing about it? And if there are any hamstring helpers you can recommend, I would love to hear about them!
Until next time! xxoo