The hamstrings are a common source of frustration for many yoga practitioners. In this interview, renowned yoga teacher Doug Keller, author of Yoga as Therapy, talks about why the hamstrings are so important and why tight hamstrings is a source of misalignment in numerous yoga postures.
The hamstrings are intimately connected to the health of the lower back and pelvis, notes Doug, and many back injuries and low back pain issues are related to the hamstrings. Also, the way people stretch the hamstrings can sometimes cause an injury to the connective tissue in the lower back.
However, Doug notes, it’s not just people with tight hamstrings, who have issues. In more advanced yoga classes, however, you find the opposite problem. What is more common for experienced yoga practitioners are people who are very flexible in their hamstrings, but the way they are stretching is causing injury, especially to the attachments of the hamstrings at the sitting bones.
People think of hamstring injuries as coming from tight hamstrings. But the truth is that people who have tight hamstrings are somewhat safer in their stretching. They are not going to overstretch them unless they try too hard. Of course, they have another problem: they tend to injure their lower back in the process of trying to stretch their hamstrings.
Doug further discusses basic principles of teaching methodology for people with hamstring issues, and how best to work with common alignment issues linked to tight hamstrings.
Also check out Doug’s course on YogaUOnline: Avoiding the #1 Yoga Mistake: Essential Keys to Healthy Hamstrings.