Transform Painfully Tight Hamstrings With These 13 Yoga Poses
Give the backs of your legs some love and attention with these hamstring-opening yoga poses, and you're sure to ease tightness in your lower half. They're great for those who run, bike, lift heavy, or sit at a desk all day. Stretching a few minutes each day will ease tightness and gives you some much-needed self-care time.
Standing Forward Bend
- Stand at the front of your mat in Mountain pose.
- Fold the torso and rest the hands on the thighs, shins, or on the floor if you can reach.
- Shift weight forward into the toes to intensify the stretch in the backs of the legs.
- Stay like this for five deep breaths, nodding the head up and down and from side to side to release the neck.
Wide-Legged Tipover Tuck
- Stand with your feet three to four feet apart, with the heels slightly wider than the toes.
- Inhale to interlace your hands behind you, pressing the heels of your palms together in a double fist. If this hurts your shoulders, hold opposite elbows instead.
- As you exhale, fold forward at the hips. Keep the legs straight, pressing your weight forward into your toes. Hold for five deep breaths (about 30 seconds).
- Stand with both feet together. Shift weight onto your left foot, lift your right leg off the floor, and bend the knee behind you. Hold either the ankle, inner arch, or the big toe with your right hand. Lean forward, lifting your right leg as high as you can, extending your left arm in front of you to help you balance.
- Stay like this for five breaths, release hold of your foot, and repeat this pose while balancing on the right leg.
Intense Side Stretch
- Stand with both feet together in Mountain Pose. Step your left foot directly behind you about two feet.
- Fold forward over your straight right leg, resting your hands on the hips or on either side of the front leg, breathing deeply for five breaths.
- Step the left foot forward, then repeat on the other side.
Head to Knee
- Sit on the floor with both legs extended in front of you. Bend your right knee and pull the sole of your foot against your left inner thigh.
- Reach your right hand to the outside edge of your left foot so you can stack your torso directly on top of your left leg. Bring your left hand to the arch of your left foot. If you can't reach your hands to your foot, then reach out as far as you can, resting your chest on your left thigh. Remember, the point here is to stretch your hamstrings, hips, and lower back, not to touch your foot.
- Stay here for five breaths, relaxing your shoulders away from your ears. Repeat on the other side.
- Sit in a wide straddle.
- With straight legs and a straight back, slowly hinge at the hips, reaching out with the chest to prevent the spine from rounding.
- Rest your hands on your thighs or on the floor.
- Only fold as far as you can with straight legs, then hold here for five breaths.
One-Legged Seated Straddle
- Sit in a wide straddle.
- Turn to the right leg and fold over the thigh, breathing deeply for five breaths.
- Repeat on the left side.
Seated Forward Bend
- Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Make your spine as long as you can.
- Slowly hinge at your hips, lowering your torso toward your thighs. Maintain a straight back and fold as far as you need to feel a nice stretch in your back and hamstrings. Don't worry about folding your body completely in half unless this is comfortable for you.
- Stay like this for five deep breaths.
- Come into a low lunge with the left knee bent and the right knee resting on the floor behind you.
- Shift your weight back, bending your right knee and straightening your left leg.
- Place a block or rolled-up blanket under your left hamstring if you need to. Start to inch your left foot away from you, lowering the hips into Split.
- No need to go all the way down into a full Split! Hold wherever you feel a deep stretch in the left hamstring for five breaths.
- Repeat on the other side.
Reclining Big Toe B
- Lie on your back, bend your right knee, and hold on to the right big toe with the first two fingers and thumb of your right hand.
- Take the right leg out wide, lowering it toward the floor as much as you can.
- Gaze to the left, staying here for five breaths.
- Repeat with the left leg.
- Lie on your back, hold onto your big toes, and straighten your legs out as wide as you can.
- Keep your head and shoulders relaxed on the bed, enjoying this stretch for five deep breaths.
Reclining Big Toe A
- Lie down with the left knee bent and your left foot planted firmly on the floor.
- Raise your right leg into the air, holding behind the thigh, the calf, or the big toe, or place a strap over the arch of your foot.
- Keep your torso relaxed and hold for five breaths.
- Repeat on the other side.
Straddle Stretch at the Wall
- Lie on your back as close as you can to the wall; you want your bum against the wall.
- Lengthen your legs upward with your heels resting on the wall. Separate your feet and slide your legs down the wall toward the ground, coming into a straddle position.
- Hold this position for two to three minutes or longer, if needed.
- When you're ready to get out of the stretch, slide your legs together (or push them together if that's easier). Draw your knees into your chest and roll to one side.