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Yoga for running – stretching tight hamstrings

hamstring-forward-bend

The yoga pose “forward bend” is an excellent way for athletes to stretch their hamstrings

This is an excellent visual on the goings-on of the standing forward bend.  This pose is awesome for becoming friends with your hamstring.  Most athletes probably HATE this pose.  Those that practice yoga laugh, when we say we “hate” a pose, that’s usually the pose that we need to practice more than anything.

Doing this pose with some thoughts in mind, listed below, will help you to gain big benefits that will have a great impact on your running, as well as feeling better before and after running.  I’m mean really, who would love to have a back that doesn’t hurt?

Thanks for the picture, Daily Bandha.

What Athletes and runners need to know about forward bending:

  • Hinging at the hips is important.
    What this means for the runners; most likely the runner has either one or two tight hamstrings is that you MUST be patient at this stretch. If you are only bent at the hips a little bit, that’s ok. Practicing forward bending with a flat back. This helps you to focus on stretching the hamstrings and not involving the back too much.
  • Understand that the hamstrings are connected to the back.
    You have two hamstrings that are separate and can be different in length. So what are we talking about here? Tight hamstrings can cause the pelvis to tilt backward, which causes the lumbar spine to flatten out. And it really doesn’t like to be flattened out. The lumbar spine is designed to be curved (lordosis). To compensate, the back muscles and maybe the psoasis (etc) work (excessively) to correct the imbalance. You get this tug of war with the athlete ending up with a very sore and cranky back. Then add that one hamstring might be more tight than the other, which causes a side lilt in the pelvis as well. This results in the athlete having one side of the back more angry than the other. This imbalance continues up through the back and can cause shoulder and neck issues as well.
  • Do not get aggressive with forward bending.
    The hamstrings need to be treated like babies. They work alot. They probably have been neglected and expected to work a lot for little pay. If you stand a lot, they are constantly engaged. If you sit a lot, they get short and angry. So when you are working with the hamstrings and back in forward bending, always go slower, be more mindful. Ensure that when you are stretching the hamstrings, that you feel the stretch in the belly of the muscle, NOT in the back of the knee or at the sit bones.
  • Use a block.
    If you are working on lengthening the hamstrings and you are doing a standing forward bend, use the block. Some athletes are resistant to using the block because they feel like it’s an indication that they can’t do it “right”. Using the block can be necessary to get a good connection with whats going on in the hamstring and the back. If you do this, you will stretch better. If you stretch better, you will have a greater chance of the hamstrings becoming longer and staying that way. If you do that, you will have a greater chance of getting to not needing a block faster. So…use the block! Also, there is this interesting thing that happens if you use the block: Having your hand on the block, mildly engaging the upper body, feeling a bit of push off from the block helps you to engage the entire back fascia chain. This means that kinetically you get smarter, experience a more whole body response. And that feels AWESOME.

    Let’s be clear. In yoga, “not right” is whatever hurts your body. For the runners, you want your yoga practice to help you race, be strong and stay in the game.

  • Forward bending engages the parasympathetic nervous system.
    This calls you down. Turns off your body’s stress response. Most of us, the runners, are very driven and perhaps prone to “running at high speed” all the time. In the gym or at the office. Forward bending can be very nurturing for the body. If you allow yourself to slow down for a bit, and during your yoga practice don’t skip the boring and slow stuff, you allow your body to recharge, rest and recovery.

Here is a video for hamstrings. Enjoy.

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