Most people who have done any sort of stretching are familiar with hamstring stretches.
Do you know how to stretch your hamstrings in a way that will heal your back?
Here’s something important for you to remember:
- Your legs extend your spine. If you want to fix your back you have to deal with your legs.
- Your feet control your hips. If your feet are out of position, that will affect how your hips feel.
- Your hips control your knees. If you have hip pain, you have to address your hips.
- And finally, full circle, your legs extend the spine. Dealing with the placement of your feet, hips, knees and legs will improve the well-being of your back.
Common mistakes with hamstring stretches include:
- Your feet are not in alignment. I worked with a client in the past week. The outside of her foot lifted up and the inside dropped down, which would affect the position of her pelvis and therefore her lower back. Make sure your both edges of your feet are even on the strap.
- Bending your knee. This is cheating! You don’t get much hamstring stretch this way. Don’t cheat yourself, straighten your leg.
- Bringing your leg so close to the chest that your leg that is supposed to be on the ground pops up. This pulls on your lower back – the opposite of what you need to heal your lower back.
- Holding your breath. Breathe deeply, relax and visualize the back of your leg relaxing. When you hold your breath, your nervous system locks down in fight or flight and your muscles do not stretch as easily.
- Being lazy. If you are so relaxed that your feet are turned out and your muscles are all loose, that’s not good either as you are not creating the alignment you need to restore order in your body.
- Not holding the stretches long enough. Hold your hamstring stretch at least one minute each side. If you want to change your life, hold your hamstring stretches five minutes each side.
- Holding both straps in one hand. You want to use both hands so that you pull evenly on the two sides of your foot.
- Failing to engage your quadriceps. There’s an important concept called reciprocal inhibition. When you contract one side of your body, the opposite side releases and lengthens. When you want to stretch your hamstrings, lift your kneecaps to engage your quadriceps and your hamstrings will lengthen more easily.
Your hamstrings consist of there separate muscles – the semimembranosus, semitendinosis, and biceps femoris.
These muscles pull on the ischial tuberosities, also known as your sitz bones or sitting bones, on the lower part of your pelvis.
Therefore the tighter your hamstrings, the more they pull on your lower back, making you hurt worse.
Here’s how to do this correctly:
- Lie on your back.
- Put a yoga strap across the ball of your foot.
- Spread your toes.
- Push up through your foot.
- Extend the opposite leg on the floor.
- Get the opposite foot straight up to the sky.
- Hold each side of the strap in each hand to pull evenly on the two sides of your foot.
- Relax and hold each side at least one minute.
Interestingly, the hamstrings fall on the large intestine acupuncture meridian.
Emotionally speaking, the large intestine is all about letting go of what no longer serves you to make the space for beneficial change.
Stretch your hamstrings correctly, change your life!
This exercise is the fourth exercise in the series I recommend if you have injured your lower back. To read more, start with the first article in the blog series at this link.