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Stretches and tones your hamstrings; strengthens your abdominal muscles; increases circulation to your digestive system.
1. Lie on your back and bring your left knee into your chest. Place your left index and middle fingers between the big and second toes of your left foot. Wrap your thumb around to grip the big toe (a.k.a. a yogi grip).
2. Inhale and simultaneously straighten both legs. If you have trouble activating your bottom leg, start with your knees slightly bent and the bottoms of your feet against a wall. By pressing into the wall, you’ll be able to more easily activate your right leg muscles.
3. Place your right hand on your right thigh to ground the right leg.
4. Contract the quadriceps of your left leg to stretch the left hamstrings. You should feel a stretch in the belly, or middle, of your hamstrings. If you feel stretch or strain by your sitting bone, then move the outer left hip down, toward your right foot, to lengthen your left waist and shift the stretch.
5. Exhale to engage Mula Bandha and raise your head and shoulders. Bend your left arm down to avoid tension in your neck, and pull your left leg toward your forehead without bending the knee.
6. Breathe freely through your nose for 10 rounds.
7. Inhale to release your left toe; exhale to lower your leg to the floor.
8. Repeat on the other side.
Avoid These Common Mistakes
Don’t bend either knee. This pushes the stretch out of your hamstrings and into the tendons near your sitting bones, where most hamstring strains or tears occur.
Don’t pull on the upper leg so much that you lift the lower leg off the floor. If your bottom leg doesn’t stay grounded, you won’t experience the full benefits of the hamstring stretch.
About Our Pros
Teacher Eddie Modestini is co-founder and co-director of Maya Yoga Studio on Maui, Hawaii. Since 1983, he has studied with preeminent teachers including B.K.S. Iyengar and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. He has a degree in exercise physiology and has taught advanced bodywork techniques.
Teacher and model Nicki Doane is the other co-founder and co-director of Maya Yoga Studio. She teaches workshops and trainings worldwide. Learn more at mayayogastudio.com.