If you run, bike, ski, or sit at a desk all day, chances are your hamstrings are screaming for some attention. Get on the floor and give them what they crave — a seated forward bend. This pose looks simple enough, but here are some ways to increase that deep stretch in the backs of your legs.
- Before folding forward, sit with your legs straight out in front of you. Take your right fingertips and pull the flesh of your glute up and away from the sit bone. Repeat on the: left hand moves left cheek. Moving the cushioning of your seat out of the way helps target your hamstrings more effectively in the stretch.
- While still sitting upright, increase the stretch in the backs of your legs even further by gently pressing the backs of your knees into the floor. Flex your feet to also engage your calves and shins, but do keep your heels on the floor so you don't hyperextend your knees.
- Actively roll both thighs inward, creating a more grounded base for your hips to hinge from. This action in the thighs also help keep the feet flat, as the pinky toe side of the foot has a tendency to curl away from you.
- Hinge forward at your hip joint to come into the forward bend, keeping your legs engaged as you move your belly button toward your thighs, not your head. Keeping the spine straight, rather than rounding the back, intensifies the stretch for the back of the legs. Using this technique means you probably won't be able to fold in half as much as you would if your spine was rounded, but your hamstrings will be getting a deeper stretch.
- Rest your hands comfortably on the floor beside your legs, on your knees or shins, or if you can reach them, hold the sides of your feet. Use your core muscles to pull your torso closer to your thighs, not your upper body. This will not only alleviate tension in your neck and shoulders, but it will strengthen your core and allow you to fold more.
- For those with already flexible hamstrings who have no problem touching their feet, try an advanced version by placing a standard six-inch block against the soles of your feet. Wrap your hands around the block beyond your feet. Keep your shoulders relaxed and use your abs to fold even deeper.