Strong Hamstrings For Strong Midlife

Why Hamstring Flexibility Is Important?

All my life till I got pregnant with my daughter I was very skinny and hence misunderstood as fit. Neither did I feel the need to intentionally workout nor anyone suggested that I should. Later in life got busy with the newborn and the work and the social life that I almost forgot to step back and give some serious attention to my fitness. I know many women and men in their 40s suddenly realizing that something needs to be done about this. The typical choice is to start walking or jogging, and few go out of the way to start playing intensive sports like tennis, football, or basketball. Don’t get me wrong, anything you do to move your limbs and come out of the sedentary lifestyle is always great, but is your body really ready for it? If you are not a regular in physical activity, a big gap of 10,15 or even 20 years can throw your muscles really out of their comfort zones and thus introducing you to various types of injuries. To avoid such injuries and smoothly train your body towards a fitter healthier lifestyle you need to take stretching very seriously.

One muscle group that very often seen to get affected by a new workout is your hamstrings. The hamstrings are a group of three different muscles in the back of the thigh that runs from the hip to the knee. This muscle group helps us mainly in activities like walk, run, and jump. Several factors can cause a hamstrings muscle strain, but mainly there are three reasons seen

Reasons For Hamstring Strain

  1. Muscle Tightness – Tight muscles are more vulnerable to strain. If a muscle is underused for a long period of time, it tends to become tight and loses its flexibility. Today’s sedentary lifestyle involving sitting in a chair for a long time can make hamstrings tightness worse.
  2. Muscle imbalance – When one muscle group is stronger than its opposing muscle group, the imbalance occurs which can lead to a strain in the weaker muscle. This often happens with the hamstring as the quadriceps muscles at the front of the thigh are usually more powerful. During sports, sprinting or even brisk walking like activities, the hamstring has more chances of getting fatigued and injured.
  3. Poor conditioning – If your muscles are weak to start with, they won’t be able to cope with the stress of your activity and are more likely to be injured. Stretching muscles for better toning and flexibility from an early age like in your early 20s might help in building deeper muscle tone with improved flexibility for life.

To start or continue any physical activity that involves walking or running, a well-toned hamstring muscle is a big asset. This large and strong muscle group supports the spine that helps you to stand straight and your hip bones that help you sit right. They allow you to bend forward, reach further without injuring your lower back or hips. For anyone who has ever had problems with Sciatica, even the word Sciatica might trigger a pretty painful memory. Sciatica is when the sciatic nerve, which runs from your hips to your feet, is irritated. It can occur due to a herniated disk, bone spur on the spine, or narrowing of the spine. Tight hamstrings can trigger back issues that might affect this nerve eventually. Hence in most sciatica treatments, hamstring stretching is given utmost importance.

Yoga For Hamstring

Yoga is great for stretching hamstrings muscles. Where many asanas in Yoga might demand great flexibility of these mighty muscles, some asanas help to gain that flexibility over time. Here we will take 5 simple poses which can be done by anyone at any age. These poses are for all levels of practitioners, hence I highly recommend watching the video to understand where to start as a beginner and step it up slowly and safely.

  1. Janu Sirsasana – Head-to-Knee Forward Bend – Janu Sirsasana is a seated forward bend. It can be included in the warmup routine as well as a cool down. If done correctly, this pose can be done by almost everybody with any level of flexibility. Watch a detail video to know more.
    Contraindications: People suffering from asthma, knee injuries and diarrhea should avoid this pose.

  2. Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward facing dog – Adho Mukha Svanasana is used by many teachers as a pose to rest in during long yoga sequence. The pose looks very simple but there is a lot happening during this pose. Watch this video to know the small tips and tricks to do a downward-facing dog pose part of your daily routine.
    Contraindications: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or Pregnancy
  3. Pasavottanasana – Pyramid pose – This pose which is also a part of moon salutation is a very intense hamstring stretch.
    Contraindications: People with a back injury or high blood pressure should avoid going deep in this pose.
  4. Anantasana – Sleeping Vishnu Pose – This pose looks pretty laid back and simple but it can surprisingly be very challenging. The biggest challenge is balancing and stretching at the same time. Watch this short video to see how to do the pose step by step.
    Contraindications: Avoid lifting neck in case of prior Neck injuries
  5. Padangusthasana – Big Toe Pose – This Pose is one of the easy but effective poses in yoga. It works on the body as well as the mind as it has a calming effect on the brain. Watch this video, I demonstrate Padangusthasana, common mistakes that are to be avoided and supported version to help you make your way into the final deeper pose.
    Contraindications: Do not bend forward if there are any back injuries/spondylitis or back pain.

Fitness is for all, at any age and at any stage of your life, and its never too late to start a new fitness regime to get back on track. However, while doing this one has to do this in a safe way, and stretching appropriately is one of the ways to do the same. So go ahead start something new, push your body beyond your comfort zone but at the same time do not forget to give some love to your body as well by stretching after each and every workout.

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Shilpa is an entrepreneur, blogger, certified yoga instructor, and certified nutritionist.

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