Tight hamstrings seem to come with being a runner and it can be quite a nuisance when your legs just aren’t cooperating when you want to get in your morning jog. Don’t they know you’re trying to train for a marathon? Have you ever tried yoga hamstring stretches?
Unfortunately, when you experience tightness in your hamstrings, it often precedes a formal injury. This means that if you don’t take care of the cause of this soreness, you’re quickly going to get injured.
We’re going to take you through a series of 16 yoga hamstring stretches to loosen up your tight muscles so you can get back to your regular running routine in no time, without risk of injury.
- 1 The Wide-Legged Tipover Tuck
- 2 The Extended Wide Squat
- 3 The Standing Forward Bend
- 4 The Standing Hand to Big Toe A
- 5 The Standing Hand to Big Toe B
- 6 The Dancer
- 7 The Intense Side Stretch
- 8 The Circling Three-Legged Dog
- 9 The Open Lizard
- 10 The Split
- 11 The One-Legged Seated Saddle
- 12 The Head to Knee
- 13 The Double Pigeon
- 14 The Reclining Big Toe A
- 15 The Reclining Big Toe B
- 16 The Reclining Straddle
- 17 Final Thoughts on Yoga Hamstring Stretches
The Wide-Legged Tipover Tuck
- Begin your yoga sequence by standing in a wide-legged position – so, about three to four feet apart. Your heels should be slightly further apart than your toes.
- On the inhale, stretch your arms above your head and interlace your fingers. Press the heels of your palms together
- On the exhale, fold forward as far as you can go, keeping your legs straight. Be mindful that you are pressing your weight onto your toes to keep your balance. Take five slow breaths as you hold this position
The Extended Wide Squat
- From the Wide-Legged Tipover Tuck, bend your knees – you should not be lowered into a squat, your legs still three to four feet apart.
- Stretch your arms, allowing your palms to lay flat on the mat in front of you.
- Relax your head, allowing it to fall downwards towards the mat. Ease into the stretch in your hips and lower back. Hold this pose for five breaths.
The Standing Forward Bend
- From your Extended Wide Squat, slowly come up to a stand-up position. Bring your feet in, hip-width apart.
- Keeping your legs straight (or as straight as you can), fold forward and rest your hands on the floor. If you can’t rest your hands on the floor, modify this by resting them on the thighs or the shins.
- Be mindful that your weight is on your toes so you can intensify the stretch in the backs of your legs as best you can.
- Release the tension on your neck by gently nodding your head up and down and from side to side. Hold for five slow breaths.
The Standing Hand to Big Toe A
- This is the first step is the Standing Head to Big Toe Series. To begin, stay in your standing forward bend. Grasp your big toe with your right hand and bring your left hand to your left hip.
- Place your weight on your left foot and inhale as you stand, raising your right leg into the air. Don’t worry if you’re not able to do this – it certainly takes a lot of practice balance. If you can’t pull your leg straight, focus on the stretch in the left leg by standing tall and simply bending your right knee.
- Make sure your upper body is straight and aligned with your standing left leg and hold for five slow breaths.
The Standing Hand to Big Toe B
- This is another position that will be tricky if you cannot pull your leg straight so modify if you need to by bending your knee. From standing position, rotate your body so your right leg is out to the side. Gaze over your left shoulder to lightly stretch your neck.
- If you can stretch your right leg, pull your right toes as high as possible to get in that good stretch. Breathing slowly, hold for five breaths.
- Now, bring your right leg back to the center. Bending your right knee, carefully lean forward and stretch your right leg out behind you, keeping a hold on your right foot.
- Reach your left arm out in front of you (it doesn’t need to be straight).
- Your bottom leg should be straight as you’re doing this pose. This again requires balance that you may not have yet so modifications are fine as long as you’re keeping that left leg straight. Keep your chest open and hold for five breaths.
The Intense Side Stretch
- For this pose, let go of your right leg. Step your right leg forward, keeping about three feet between your right leg and your back leg.
- Folding your torso down towards the floor, either rest your hands on your hips or the sides of your right, front leg. Hold this pose for five slow breaths.
The Circling Three-Legged Dog
- If your hands are already on either side of the right foot, keep them there, with the palms flat on the mat.
- Now, kick your right leg out behind you. This is the three-legged dog pose.
- Breathing in deeply, start circling your right leg. To do this correctly, keep your right leg straight and slowly lower the right foot towards the floor, beside your left foot. Instead of letting it touch the ground, swing it back up to the right. The goal is to make a circle and meet back in the start position.
- Repeat this circle for a few slow breaths. Proceed to reverse the direction for another few, slow breaths.
The Open Lizard
- Now that you’ve finished circling, put your right foot back on the ground by stepping it up beside your left hand.
- Lay left knee flat down on the floor and point your toes.
- Bring your right knee to the right as best you can. You achieve this by carefully putting your weight onto the outside of your right foot.
- Press your palms into your mat, keeping your arms straight. Press your chest forward and let your hips sink deeper, feeling that stretch.
- Look forward and breathe deeply for five breaths.
- Be careful with this one – you do not need to go into a full split. If you know you can’t do a split, don’t try. Just go down as far as you can. Bring your right knee back in and shift your weight back. Bend your left knee and straighten your right leg.
- For a modified version of a split, simply fold toward your straight right leg. If you can go into more of a split, start slowly pushing your right heel away and lower your hips further to the ground. Hold for five breaths.
The One-Legged Seated Saddle
- You now need to slowly lower your bum onto the floor, doing so carefully from your split or modified split. Your legs will now be in a wide straddle.
- Turn your torso over your right leg and fold over as far as you can, touching your head just below your right knee (or as far down as you can go). Hold for five slow breaths.
The Head to Knee
- From your straddle position, you’re now going to bend your left knee. Bring your left foot in and press against your right inner thigh.
- Keep your torso folded over your right leg and bring your hands to rest flat on the floor on either side of your right leg or rest them on your shin or lace your hands around your right foot. Breathe deeply for five breaths.
The Double Pigeon
- Sit up from your Head to Knee position, keeping your left knee bent. Now, bend your right knee, mirroring your left.
- Place your right knee over top of your left ankle. Your shins should now be parallel, with your knees, shins, and ankles stacked. Stay here for five breaths.
The Reclining Big Toe A
- We’re nearly at the end of this sequence but we’re going to start this wind down with the Reclining Big Toe A. Slowly unfold yourself from your Double Pigeon and hold onto your right lower leg. Allow yourself to lie down and keep your left foot planted on the ground with your left knee bent
- Lift your right leg into the air and allow yourself to hold it up behind your thigh or your calf. You can always use a yoga strap over the arch of your foot to hold it up this way as well. Hold for five breaths.
The Reclining Big Toe B
- The second part in this mini-sequence is the Reclining Big Toe B. Let your left leg lie flat on the floor and lower your right leg to the side.
- Continue to hold onto your right leg in whichever way is comfortable for you, as long as it is extended out to the side. Look to your left and hold for five breaths.
The Reclining Straddle
- You’re nearly done! Continue this pose on your back and hold onto your big toes with both of your hands.
- Straighten your legs as wide as possible so you’re in a straddle position while still on your back. Hold and enjoy for five breaths.
Slowly release and rock yourself back up to a standing position. Practice this sequence a couple of times a week to loosen tight hamstrings to make your runs more enjoyable.
Final Thoughts on Yoga Hamstring Stretches
Make sure you take care of your hamstrings so you don’t cause an injury – you could easily knock yourself out of the running game. The right injury could keep you off your feet for an extended period of time.