Yoga For Tight Hamstrings: 10 Poses To Loosen Even The Tightest Legs

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Most people have tight hamstrings. It can be due to a lot of exercise or a lot of sitting, but in general, we tense these muscles a lot in our life.

Today we will talk about yoga for tight hamstrings. Many yoga poses improve hamstring flexibility, and we will give you the best examples in this article.

We will go through:

The Cause of Tight Hamstrings

Hamstrings contract whenever you bend your legs, which shortens their length. This happens in all cases – whether you’re walking, running, doing squats, or sitting.

That means, our hamstrings are contracted almost always, which builds strength, but also makes them stiff.

That is why most people have tight hamstrings. To overcome this we need to counter the contracting motion by stretching the back of our legs. 

How Yoga Helps

Yoga involves many postures that stretch the back of our legs, including the hammies. Virtually all forward bends work on this area.

Tight hamstrings are usually also connected with a tight lower back, and yoga also increases mobility in this area, releasing tension from our entire posterior chain.

Here, we will share the best yoga poses to stretch your hamstrings. Practice them regularly to release tightness from this area and become more flexible. 

10 Yoga Poses For Tight Hamstrings

#1: Downward Facing Dog (adho mukha svanasana)

When we think about yoga for tight hamstrings, the first asana that comes to mind is Downward Dog.

This is one of the most common poses in yoga, but you can also increase the duration when you want to focus more on your hamstrings. 

The pose stretches the entire back body, so you can release any other tension that developed along with tight hamstrings, too.
 an annotated image of a woman in black yoga clothes doing downward facing dog

How to do it:

  1. Begin in Tabletop position, then walk your hands forward about a palm distance.
  2. Tuck your toes, and press firmly into your palms. 
  3. Now lift your hips all the way up. First, practice with bent knees and focus on the length of your spine.
  4. Maintaining a long spine, slowly begin to straighten your legs and push your heels towards the ground.
  5. Relax your head, and breathe. Hold for as long as you’d like.

#2: Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

This pose is often used to test hamstring muscles flexibility. It is a wonderful stretch for the backs of the legs – one of the best if you’re looking for a standalone asana which you can do throughout the day to release your hamstrings. 

annotated image of a woman doing yoga's standing forward bend pose

How to do it:

  1. Start in Mountain Pose with hands on hips and feet hip-width apart.
  2. Then begin to fold from your hips, bringing your chest towards your thighs.
  3. Bend your knees as much as you need to to maintain a long spine.
  4. When you fold to your fullest capacity, engage the front thighs to straighten the legs a bit, you can slightly round at this point.
  5. Place your palms on the floor, shins, or yoga blocks. Relax your head. 
  6. Find a place where you feel the most sensation in your hammies, and hold it there.

#3: Half Forward Fold

This pose may give you an even more intense hamstring stretch than the Standing Forward Fold – you can do one after the other. It will increase hamstring mobility and stretch the deeper tissues.

annotated image of a woman doing yoga's standing half forward bend

How to do it:

  1. Begin in the Standing Forward Fold.
  2. Bring your hands to your shins, and lift your torso, so it’s parallel to the ground.
  3. Try to keep your back straight, and engage your core. Bend your knees if you need to keep the spine long.
  4. You can also rest your hands on blocks.
  5. Hold for 5 breaths and release. 

#4: Half Splits

If you’re doing yoga for hamstrings, don’t miss this intense stretch. It is one of the best for your hamstrings and is a great prep for full splits too. 

an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing half splits pose

How to do it:

  1. Begin in Tabletop Pose.
  2. Step your right foot forward in between your palms, coming into a lunge. Keep the left knee on the floor. 
  3. Lift your hands off the floor and place them on your hips. Find your balance.
  4. Now, move your hips back to straighten your right leg. To do this, you might need to slide the right foot forward or the left knee backward.
  5. Keeping the hips above the knees and striving to have them aligned, begin to fold forward over the right leg. 
  6. Place the hands on the floor next to your leg or on a block.
  7. Hold for 5 breaths, release back to tabletop, then repeat on the other side.

#5: Triangle Pose

Triangle Pose is great for stretching your hamstrings, but it will work on your hips, groin, and shoulders too, and it is accessible to absolute beginners.

Don’t focus as much on touching the floor with your hand, rather lift it on a block and focus on the stretch in your legs. 

an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing triangle pose

How to do it:

  1. Begin in Mountain Pose.
  2. Step your right foot back around 3 to 4 feet, as you would for Warrior 2.
  3. Turn the right foot in a bit, and lift your arms so they’re parallel to the ground.
  4. Shift your hips back and hinge from your hips, reaching the left arm towards the front.
  5. Then lean forward, bringing your chest close to your left thigh. Lower the left hand on the shin, block, or floor, and lift the right arm towards the sky. 
  6. Hold for a couple of breaths, lift back up, then move to the other side.  

#6: Reclining Big Toe Pose (Supta Padangusthasana)

Runners often use this hand-to-big-toe pose to release calves and hamstrings after their run. It’s great for the lower back too – and best of all you can do the work while lying down.

an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing reclined hand to big toe Pose

How to do it: 

  1. Lie on the ground with your legs extended. 
  2. Bring one knee close to your chest and hug it around the shin. 
  3. Keep your sit bones grounded and aligned. 
  4. You can hook your big toe with your hands, or if that is too difficult, use a yoga strap.
  5. Then, press into your hand or strap with your foot, and extend it towards the sky. 
  6. Keep the shoulders and hips grounded. 
  7. Hold for 5 to 7 breaths, release, and repeat on the other side. 

#7: Wide Legged Forward Fold

This is another great exercise for the hamstrings, just make sure you find the alignment where you feel the biggest stretch in the hamstrings rather than the back.

It will also get into your groin and lower back.

annotated image of a man doing a wide legged forward bend

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet around 3 to 4 feet apart. Point the toes slightly inward. 
  2. Hinge from your hips, and begin to fold your upper body forward, keeping the spine long.
  3. Place your hands on the floor or blocks. To intensify the stretch in the hamstrings, aim to maintain a straight spine and walk your hands slightly backward, so they sit between your feet.
  4. Engage your thighs and root through all four corners of your feet.
  5. Hold for 5 to 7 breaths, and slowly lift back up to standing. 

#8: Pyramid Pose

This pose will give you a similar sensation to the half splits. While performing it, make sure you don’t hyperextend the knees, keep a micro bend, which is safer for the knee joint and intensifies the hamstring stretch.

an annotated image of a man wearing black yoga clothes doing pyramid pose

How to do it:

  1. Stand in Mountain pose.
  2. Step the right foot back, less than you would for Warrior Pose – around 2 to 3 feet apart. Play around with your stance to find what works for you.
  3. Keeping both legs straight, hinge at your hips and fold over your left leg. 
  4. Keep the hands on the hips, the heart, or wrap them behind your back holding opposite elbows. 
  5. Hold for 5 breaths then release. 

#9: Head-To-Knee Pose

Janu Sirsasana or Head To Knee Pose releases tension from the hamstrings and back and can be very useful if tight hamstrings also cause lower back pain.

annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing standing head to knee pose
  1. Start sitting on the floor in Staff Pose.
  2. Bend one knee and open it to the side, placing the foot on the inner thigh of the opposite leg.
  3. Begin bending over your straight leg. Focus on keeping the spine long rather than touching the knee with your forehead – this will intensify the stretch in the hamstrings.
  4. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths and release. Repeat on the other side. 

#10: Reclined Spinal Twist Variation

A great finishing deep stretch for your sequence, this variation of the reclined twist targets the hamstring muscle group while still giving a great stretch to the muscles surrounding your spine and your lower back and hips.

an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing reclined twist Pose

How To Do it:

  1. Begin lying on the ground, with your knees bent and your feet on the ground.
  2. Move your arms in a T-shape so they are aligned with your shoulders. Keep the shoulders grounded.
  3. Now drop the knees to the lift, and gaze to the right.
  4. Straighten the top leg to the side, and hold for 5 to 10 breaths, or longer to target the deeper tissues.
  5. Slowly get back to the center, then repeat on the other side.

When we discuss yoga for tight hamstrings, we should note that although these poses will certainly help, it will take some time for your muscles to release.

Sometimes, practice in the yin yoga practice style, holding the poses for longer (3 to 5 minutes), to target the deeper tissues in your hamstrings.

Also, expect that it will take weeks or even months to release your hamstrings and increase your flexibility, but it will be worth it. So take your time, be consistent, and the rewards will surely come. 

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Sara lives in Croatia, near the sea, with her dog. She enjoys exploring nature, and making art. She is currently developing a series of children’s/YA stories and comics in her native language, which she feels complements her work and allows her to live her dream life – having yoga, writing, art, and nature in her every day.

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