Whether you’re doing an intense exercise such as running or a sedentary activity, like sitting at a desk for long periods of time, you’re likely to experience tightness in your hamstrings. Fortunately, stretching is an excellent way to release tension in these important muscles, and many common yoga poses can directly alleviate your discomfort.
The hamstrings flex the knee and extend the hip, meaning they’re used every day for walking, climbing stairs, or riding your bike, so it’s crucial to give them the care they need to keep you moving. Just make sure not to overexert yourself in postures, which can lead to injury. Always listen to your body and be proactive when it comes to protecting this group of muscles. Use props such as blocks and blankets to provide support so you can stretch safely and more efficiently.
Yoga poses to relieve hamstring tension
Uttanasana is an integral part of Sun Salutations and vinyasa flows, but it’s also an excellent stand-alone pose for stretching the hamstring.
- Begin in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) with your hands on your hips.
- On an exhalation, fold forward from the hip joints (not the waist), keeping your shoulders back and chest wide.
- Lower your hands to the floor in front of or beside your feet, or cross your arms and hold both elbows.
Similar to Uttanasana, Prasarita Padottanasana is another standing forward bend that will stretch your entire hamstring, plus the hip flexors.
- Begin in Tadasana with your arms extended by your sides.
- Step your feet out so they’re in line with your wrists, keeping them parallel.
- On an exhalation, fold forward from the hip joints, keeping your torso open.
- Lower your fingertips to the floor.
For a seated version of Uttanasana, try Paschimottanasana. This pose stretches your calves, hamstring, and back and can be modified with a block or strap depending on your reach.
- Sit on a blanket or the floor with your feet stretched out in front of you and your legs together.
- On an inhalation, lean forward at your hip joints while keeping your torso extended and chest wide.
- Reach forward with your arms as far as feels comfortable while maintaining an upright posture.
This posture stretches the hamstrings, hips, and groin while offering a gentle spinal twist. By elongating one leg at a time instead of both in Paschimottanasana, you can achieve a deeper and more targeted stretch.
- Sit on a blanket or the floor with both legs outstretched.
- Bend your right knee and draw your heel back so it’s resting on your left inner thigh.
- On an exhalation, turn your torso slightly to the left, aligning your navel with the middle of your left thigh.
- On an inhalation, lift your torso while keeping your back straight and chest wide, and fold forward from your groin.
- Reach your hands forward toward the left foot. As you descend, bend your elbows out to the sides and lift them away from the floor.
This pose is a classic stretch for runners and offers a deep stretch for the hamstrings and calves.
- Lie down with your back on the floor and your head rested on a blanket with both legs extended.
- On an exhalation, bend your left knee and bring your left thigh into your torso.
- Loop a strap around the arch of your left foot, and on an inhalation, press the left heel up toward the ceiling.
- Walk your hands up the strap until your arms are fully extended.
Downward-Facing Dog Pose is a staple in yoga sequences—and for good reason. It stretches the entire body and especially the hamstrings, calves, glutes, hips, and back.
- Begin in Tabletop with your hands and feet shoulder-width apart.
- On an inhalation, tuck your toes. On the exhalation, press down with you fingertips and roll your hips back and up.
- Spin your biceps forward and your shoulder blades out and up.
- Press down into your heels and keep your back straight.
This pose offers a deep hamstring stretch, one leg at a time. Props are recommended for this asana, enabling you to focus on the sensations in your leg instead of overexerting to get a hand on the floor.
- Stand in Tadasana. On an exhalation, step your feet about 4 inches apart and raise your arms by your sides.
- Turn your left foot in slightly to the right and rotate your right foot 90 degrees, aligning the right heel with the left heel.
- On an exhalation, bend at the hip joints to extend your chest over the right leg.
- Lower your right hand to the floor, a block, or your shin while lengthening your left arm up to the ceiling.