Hamstrings are often referred to as the 3 muscles in the back of the thighs. These muscles cross the hip and knee joints and are invloved in bending the knees and extending the hips. When most people think of yoga poses that demonstrate “flexibility”, what comes to mind are usually poses that involve loose hamstrings, like splits and split variations. Cool yoga poses aside, there are actual health benefits that come with loose hamstrings like reduced back pain, preventing injuries and stronger legs which will aid in supporting other muscle groups and lead to improved posture.
So today, I’m sharing 5 beginner yoga poses for flexible hamstrings. While these are all beginner level poses, intermediate and advanced practitioners can also increase hamstring flexibility with these poses. Total beginners might have a hard time with these poses even though they are classified as “beginner” poses in the yoga world, as such, I’ll share modifications for each pose. As you practice, hold each pose for 3 to 5 deep, slow breaths (or longer) in order to get a deep stretch in your hamstrings. Breathing lets your central nervous system know your body is not in harms way with the new sensations.
Don’t push all the way to you limit when you first practice each pose. Let your body get used to the sensations and then move deeper with each breath. Remember to listen to your body in each pose, pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong! Do not push past your limits, practice these regularly and you’ll see progress with consistency.
5 Beginner Yoga Poses for Flexible Hamstrings
Standing Forword Fold Pose | Uttanasana
Starting in Mountain pose, inhaling your arms up, on your exhale, hinge forward at your hips and lower your upperbody towards your legs. Shift your weight forward into the balls of your feet to place your hips in line with your ankles. Elongate your spine by lifting your sitting bones up towards the ceiling and reach your head down towards the ground, not towards your legs. You can reach your hands towards the ground, grab opposite elbows and dangle your arms freely, or (as pictured above) hold your calves or ankles with your palms; doing this will help you stay in the stretch easier. Don’t shove your head towards your legs, instead, reach your chest towards your legs and when you reach your limit, relax your neck. Breathe deeply and smoothly, enjoy the stretch.
Benefits – Stretches the hamstrings and lower back.
Wide Angle Seated Pose | Upavishta Konasana I
Sit with your legs stretched out in front of you, sit tall with a straight spine, reaching your head up towards the ceiling. Open your legs till they are a comfortable distance apart and you start to feel the stretch in your inner thighs. Place your hands on your knees, floor, prayer position or whatever feels comfortable, as long as you maintain the integrity of your spine.
Benefits – Stretches the hamstrings, hips and groin muscles.
Reclined Hand to Toe | Supta Padangusthasana
While laying on your back, pull your left knee in towards your chest; sliding your left arm on the inside of your leg, grab your big toe with your left index and middle finger. On an inhale, lift and straighten your leg reaching your heel towards the ceiling to activate your leg. Your right leg should be actiavated also, reaching long and strong along the floor. As you relax into the pose, slowly pull your left leg closer to your body while bending that left arm and reaching the heel, strongly, towards the ceiling. To come out of this pose, bend your elevated knee on an exhale, slowly release your big toe and then lower your leg.
Benefits – Stretches the hamstrings, hips, groin muscles and calves. Strengthens the core muscles.
Half Monkey Pose | Ardha Hanumanasana
Start by kneeling and sitting on your heels, on an exahale, lift your hips and straighten your left leg in front of you. Press your hips towards the back wall while lifting your left foot untill the sole is on the floor ad your left toes are activated towards your body. On another exhale, hinge at your hips and lower your upper body towards your left leg while resting both palms on the floor along your sides, once you’ve reached you feel a deep stretch in that hamstring, relax your neck and head. Do not reach your forehead towards the leg if your upper body isn’t in contact with that straightened leg. Lengthen your spine by reaching that head strongly towards the front of your space and lower your upper body to a comfortable limit, and then lower your forehead. To come out of this pose, lift your upper body on an inhale and return to a sitted kneeling position on your exhale.
Benefits – Stretches the hamstrings and lower back.
Plow | Halasana
Begin by laying on your back with your knees bent and your arms sretched out by your side, palms facing the floor. Pressing down into your arms and activating your core, lift your legs up and over your head. Straighten your legs, tuck your toes so they rest on the floor and activating your legs by lifting the back of your knees up towards the ceiling. Interlace your fingers, gently squeeze your shoulder blades together to open up your chest and push your arms and forearms into the ground. To come out of this pose, return your hands to their intitial position, press your palms into the floor and slowly roll your body down and then lower your legs.
Benefits – Stretches hamstrings, back, shoulders, neck and chest.
What’s your favorite yoga pose for a deep hamstring stretch?