This tutorial was originally published on May 31, 2017.
Whether you are an athlete, a yogi, or a person who sits at a desk all day for work, you will benefit greatly from having flexible hamstrings. Hamstring flexibility is a struggle for most people because they are a large muscle group that tends to get overused and under-stretched, resulting in tight hamstrings. Our hamstrings directly affect our posture as they are used to hold our bodies upright and affect the amount of stress placed on our lower backs. They are also connected to our hips and knees, making them responsible for the range of motion in those areas. It is important to regularly stretch the hamstrings to prevent injuries and improve posture and movement. The benefit of wall stretches is that they allow you to have proper alignment of your pelvis and back. A common side effect of tight hamstrings is rounding the back when stretching forward. This doesn’t help one get deeper into the hamstrings, but rather, it stretches the back. These four wall stretches will assist you in lengthening the spine for a true hamstring stretch. (Hold each stretch for 1-2 minutes.)
1. Legs Up Wall– For those who are extremely inflexible, the 90-degree angle at the hips with the legs straight up the wall will be enough sensation. For those who are extra flexible in the hamstrings, this is a great pose to practice lengthening the spine and squaring off the hips and pelvis while straightening the back of the legs. Lie on your back with your butt up against the wall and the legs straight up. Flex the feet and press the back of the knees into the wall as you allow your hips to sink into the floor.
2. Single Leg Stretch– Sit cross-legged with your butt away from the wall. The more inflexible your hamstring, the farther away you will need to sit. Place your hands on the floor behind you and uncross one leg to put it against the wall. Keep the extended leg straight and the foot flexed as you press your upper body forward with the arms. Make sure to lift the chest to lengthen the spine and keep both butt cheeks on the ground to square the pelvis. With practice, you can start to bring your butt closer to the wall and lessen the space between your upper body and your leg.
3. Wide Legged Forward Fold– Face the wall with your legs spread apart in parallel. Fold forward so that your head drops down in between your legs. Keep the arms by your sides and press your hands up against the wall for support. The goal is to walk your feet as close to the wall as possible to help flatten out your back. Once you’re in a position where you can feel the stretch, keep the legs straight and hold. You may need to work up to a few minutes in this position if you’re not used to being inverted.
4. Wall Splits– Stand facing away from the wall with your feet hip-distance apart. The closer you are to the wall, the deeper the stretch will be. Bend forward to place your hands on the ground and lift one leg up. Flex the foot and place it against the wall to help keep your hips square. Walk the foot up the wall as you press into the ground with your hands to push your hips towards the wall until you feel a stretch in your front hamstring. Lengthen your upper body as if you were in a down dog position, melting your heart towards the floor.
Holding each stretch is important in becoming more flexible. That allows the muscle fibers to loosen and open. It’s best to try these wall stretches after your body is warmed up, so make sure not to try any of these stretches cold.
How often do you stretch your hamstrings?
Also by Crystal: 4 Tension-Busting Hip Flexor Stretches You Need In Your Life
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Photo: Crystal Chin