Stretch Your Hamstrings (Part -3)

Stretch Your Hamstrings (Part -3)

Stretch your hamstrings (Part-3)

Plantar Flexion and Tight Hamstrings

Patience!!!. How many times I use this as an intention, how very seldom I find that I practice it. I accepted that it was going to be a practice of patience and acceptance. I just did not know it was going to take so long!  LOL, The simplest of tasks took so much more energy as I hobble around balanced on one leg. The right sides of my body having to do twice as much work not to mention these arms of mine were getting a daily work out.

I had an Aha moment, I know another one. I was so focused on the end result of doing again, of being healed, that I was overlooking the process of healing. Healing is a process and if I rush or ignore my body by pushing too hard, I risk a setback.

How many times do we in our yoga practice have our eyes set on the end result that we miss that little voice in the hamstring that says, “Too much” while pushing through a forward fold or that message from the body saying back out of the pose.

It is often an injury that forces us to step back, to be more mindful. So there I was amid an injury, plenty of time and reason to slow down. What is that voice in my head that keeps telling me I need to get up because obviously, the body is sending a very different message?

I recognized that I have a habitual tendency to plantarflex my foot, so I set out to research this little new awareness. Often people who present with plantar flexion typically have tight hamstrings. The tightness in the hamstrings causes the knee to flex which then shifts the weight forward on to the ball of the foot as opposed to rooting down thru the heal of the foot.

Runners and sprinters get great power in their running as they push off thru a plantar flexion of the foot to propel them forward. I am more grounded than when I began yoga but yet I am still inclined to push away and find I even do it at rest.

As today as you move toward the mat, bring your awareness to your feet. Shift the weight back into your heels as you root down grounding into the earth. As you stand in Tadasana, feel the breath move through you, the inhale moves the energy from the earth up and the exhale releases down into the earth. Feel the duality of the extension as you ground down, the head rises up into the clouds and the feet down into the earth.

Notice the differences between the left and the right and maintain that connection to the earth through the heel of the foot. Sense if you tend to lean forward onto the ball of the foot or are you able to root down through heel as you find a strong solid connection. The more connected we are to the earth, rooting down, not propping or collapsing, you are better able to feel that rebound of energy up through the spine. Maintain that connection to the earth as we move thru our standing practice today. Shift the awareness initially to your foundation and then allow the awareness to move through the body as your release any tension giving way to ease and stillness.

The origin of the word hamstring come from the word hamstrung which means to have been held back. Where in your life are you holding back? The hamstrings are not a muscle we want to force to lengthen and it takes time. Knowing this, be patient with yourself as you explore ways in which you can begin to move forward safely and comfortable not push and run away like a sprinter at the starting gate. Stop running and step into a wonderful world of sensation and a sensational you!

Forward Folds To Lengthen The Hamstrings And Protect The Back

When talking about forwarding folds, it is important first that you have a basic understanding of the differences of Flexion and Extension. Flexion is actually a decrease in the joints angle and is used about the forward and backward direction of the body. My goal is not to get to anatomical on you, but to give you a better understanding of the function of the asana as well as the Asana in action.

Let’s begin with a forward fold.  Probably one of the most overused, and misunderstood Asana.

What is the intended function of the Asana? Lengthen the hamstrings and release the back and neck or around the back and draw the nose to the knees?  I personally do not see any a useful function of rounding the back to get the nose closer to the knees and there is so much evidence out there to back this finding up.

Flexion in regards to the low back may feel good, but can and often does increase back pain long term and in most situations should be avoided. Flexion reduces and often can eliminate the natural curve (lordosis) of the low back needed for proper function, alignment and balance of the upper half of the body as well as the shock absorption and even transmission of force received from the ground up (as you walk, run or jump) through the discs, and boney matters of the spine. Back flexion, also known as trunk or spinal flexion is the act of curling the spine forward, not as a single joint, but several intervertebral joints all working in unison to curve the spine forward.

We actually spend a good portion of our day in a forward fold and this is contributing to low back pain. Sitting at your desk, at the dinner table, while driving your car, or watching TV.  In this position, you are flattening your low back increasing the amount of pressure and compression and increase the risk of disc bulge and herniation due to the excessive stress it puts on the discs.  Unless you are overly Lordotic, which I seriously doubt many of today's, why then do we need to include it in our yoga practice?

We are going to explore the movement and orientation, the action and function of the forward fold intended to lengthen the hamstrings while maintaining health in the low back.

The first thing to remember when dealing with the low back, just because you have been practicing forward folds without pain does not mean damage is not being incurred and that it is safe. You are stressing the low back if you are practicing lumbar flexion, irritating and possibly causing damage to the discs by irritating the joints, and maybe even the soft tissue.

Does that mean no forward folds, ever? No, but it does mean that today practitioner needs to look at the action and function of the forward fold and find a yoga expression that is going to result in the desired results.


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