It’s easy to think that tight hamstrings are a runner’s issue. But it’s equally true that sitting in an office chair for hours on end looking at a computer can constrict the hamstrings (and hips, and low back) just as much as pounding the pavement every morning. Invite some easy and some breezy into your hamstrings with this delicious flow.
Before beginning your practice, allow yourself a few moments of reflection in bound angle pose on your back (Supta Baddha Konasana). Keep your eyes closed to cultivate openness and peace as you let your knees settle closer to the earth.
Sweet Sun A
Resist the temptation to rush through the gearing-up process of Sun Salutation A. Allow enough time for the poses to feel warming, luscious, and grounding. Smile!
From standing pose (Tadasana), engage the low belly and swan-dive into a bent-legged forward fold (Uttanasana). Take your time here – allow your legs to gradually straighten as you shift your weight from side to side to work the kinks out. You should feel your tailbone rising to the ceiling and your hip creases softening and deepening as you loosen up.
Rise up halfway, fold forward, and make your way (via Chaturanga or not) to a bent-legged downward facing dog. Give yourself as long as you like to pad out the feet, stretch the muscles of the calves, and allow the heels to gently settle towards the floor.
When you’ve found stillness, raise the right leg in a straight line to the back of the room. Bend your knee, opening the hip and shifting more of your weight into your left hand. Keep the shoulders squared towards the front of the room, and then allow the knee to swing in wide circles – first one way, then the other.
Place the right foot back on the ground and repeat on the left side. Walk or hop your feet to the front of the mat. Sweetly repeat these Sun A’s until your body feels light and warm.
Triangle // Trikonasana
From downward facing dog, shoot your right leg forward for Warrior II before moving into triangle pose (Trikonasana). Rise up, open your left foot to a 45 degree angle, and plant it. Extend the arms to shoulder height. As you make sure to keep a slight bend in the right knee, reach the right arm toward the front of the mat while sending the left hip towards the back of the mat, ensuring both sides of the torso lengthen. Let the left arm rise to the ceiling as the right hand rests gently against the shin or foot. After three to five breaths, keep the arms extended as your rise up and repeat on the left side.
Five Pointed Star // Trikonasana Variation
From triangle, come into five-pointed star and place the hands on the hips. Let the chin and chest lift to the ceiling as you invite a slight bend in the back. Allow your weight to sink more into your toes as you bend forward with a flat back. Feel free to invite more space into your hip flexors by bending the knees slightly.
Low Crescent Lunge // Anjaneyasana
Come back to standing on an inhale, turn the right toes forward, and come into a low lunge with the left knee dropped to the earth (Anjaneyasana). First keep the chest lifted with only the fingertips on the floor, framing the right foot. Root the back foot and leg into the earth. Raise the arms above the head, draw them back, and allow your chest and head to lift as you create expansiveness in the front of the body.
Lizard // Utthan Pristhasana
Drop the hands to frame the right foot in preparation for lizard pose (Utthan Pristhasana). Scoot it several inches farther to the right and slightly in front of the shoulders. Allow the foot to roll open so that your weight is resting on the knife-edge. If it’s available to you, drop to your forearms or press your forehead into the mat. Aim for at least five to ten breaths in this posture.
Half Monkey God Pose // Ardha Hanumanasana
From lizard, your hips and hammies should be warm enough to sink into half monkey god pose (Ardha Hanumanasana). Allow the foot to come back to the center of the mat and straighten the right leg. Flex the foot and make sure that the left leg is underneath the hip, or slightly behind it. Draw your right hip back and press the hip and thigh down, toward the ground. Allow your torso to pour over the right leg with your fingers gently resting on the mat.
If you’re feeling daring, skim into full Hanumanasana. Press the hands down to lift the pelvis from the mat and extend fully through both legs as you lower yourself to the floor. With your hands in prayer pose or extended above the head, allow your chest to joyfully lift to the ceiling and then back in a slight bend. (Remember to be gentle and kind to your hamstrings in this pose. My general rule is that if I’m not sweating, I’m probably not warm enough to sink my pelvis all the way to the floor!)
Repeat this sequence from Anjaneyasana onwards on the left side, then take a vinyasa. Notice if you feel a difference in your downward facing dog, and see if you can spiral the hands slightly outwards (like you’re opening jars with both hands) to lift the tailbone towards the ceiling.
Seated Forward Bend // Paschimottanasana
From downward facing dog, come to a seat, extend the legs, and try an easy seated forward bend (Paschimottanasana). Inhale, and - keeping the front torso long - lean forward from the hip joints, not the waist. Flex your toes and let your hands fall softly wherever they are comfortable.
Head-to-Knee Forward Bend // Janu Sirsasana
Tuck the left foot into the inner right thigh for head-to-knee forward bend (Janu sirsasana). Lengthen your spine upwards and then come forward, descending over the right leg. The lower belly should touch the thighs first, and the head last.
Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose // Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana
For a final and utterly delicious stretch, come into revolved head to knee pose (Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana). Come up from your forward fold, exhale, lean to the right, and press the back of your right shoulder against the inside of your right knee. Rest your right forearm on the floor inside your right leg with your palm facing upwards. Inhale your left arm towards the ceiling, sweep it to the left ear, and take hold of your right foot. Use the leverage of your right arm to twist the upper body upwards towards the ceiling.
Repeat on the left side, then slide a block under the sacrum for a simple waterfall before Savasana. Take a moment to send graciousness, gratitude, and love to your hamstrings before rising into a namaste.
Anna Squires studies political science, journalism, and creative writing at Colorado College. There is nothing she enjoys more in a yoga class than laughing so hard she falls out of a pose, especially since then she doesn’t have to hold it anymore. She hails from Atlanta, GA.