Free Download! Yoga Friend or Foe? 5 Great Reasons to Make Friends with Your Hamstrings

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Doug Keller

Doug Keller Doug Keller’s background reflects a lifelong commitment to studying, imbibing and sharing the vast field of knowledge and practice known as yoga. After receiving honors and graduate degrees in philosophy from the top Jesuit universities in the United States, Georgetown and Fordham Universities, and...

The hamstrings play a big role in yoga practice and in our daily posture balance, and we ignore them at our own peril, says acclaimed author and yoga teacher Doug Keller in this talk.

The hamstrings are one of the biggest workhorse muscle groups, because they help to hold up our posture and keep us upright. When we have postural imbalances it tends to put a lot of stress on the hamstrings, and the effect of that is often pressure on the lower back.

Healthy hamstrings are key to a healthy, lower back. It's a main focus of yoga practice to maintain the flexibility of the hamstrings, Doug notes. But sometimes it's overemphasized too much to be flexible in the hamstrings, because they're also meant to be strong to support us.

If we overly weaken the hamstrings by overstretching them, that affects our knees as well as our lower back. So it's a key muscle group just for maintaining the basic health of the body in the most normal functional movements that we do.

Doug talks about 5 reasons to make friends with your hamstrings:

1. Preventing injuries. Overly tight hamstrings predispose us for injuries and hamstring tears. But similarly, overly flexible hamstrings can sometimes lead to issues as well, particularly at the hamstring insertions at the sits bones, Doug notes.

2. Enhancing Well-being. Doug discusses how, similar to the psoas muscle, the hamstrings often hold a lot of tension and tightness, which in turn is reflected in our mind and emotional state. For many people, for example, hamstring stretches are one of the best ways to settle down mind and body to prepare for a good night’s sleep.

3. Improving Postural Alignment. Via their attachment to the sits bones, the hamstrings affect pelvic alignment, which in turn is reflected in our postural patterns, Doug explains. Certain posture patterns are precipitated by tight hamstrings and it’s important to keep the hamstrings malleable to avoid getting locked into a poor posture.

4. Slowing age-related changes in the fascia. The hamstrings are very fascia-rich and can easily dry out and lose their ability to glide, in turn affecting our flexibility.

5. Preventing back pain. 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.

Doug further points out that we often become too aggressive in working with the hamstrings, trying to stretch them too aggressively when they're tight. 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.

Also check out Doug's course on YogaUOnline: https://www.yogauonline.com/yogau-product/9201