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Massage, Bodywork, Health and Fitness

Help for the Hammies

We’ve had a few clients in the past few months that have very tight hamstrings, which can lead to low back, knee, or hip problems. There are many stretches out there, but not all of them get to the root of the problem. As always, one of our favorite ways to address this problem, off the massage table, is yoga.

Uttanasana is a posture that not only stretches the hamstrings, but releases the tension at the root of the body where the ligaments of hamstrings attach, and releases the connective tissue, along the back side of the body, that run through the hamstrings.

When we look at the hamtrings (biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus) and the associated ligaments in this picture, we will see that they attach at the bottom of the pelvis, the sacrum, and the bones around the knee.   So if the hamstrings themselves are tight they will be pulling on all of these areas, causing possible structural misalignment, tension, and/or pain.

hamstrings_origin_insert

In order to address any muscle group to affect deep change we must always also address the connective tissue that surrounds each muscle fiber. From the point of view of the connective tissues in the hamstrings, we can see that the fascial (connective tissue) line that runs through the hamstrings also run along the whole back side of the body from the head to the bottom of the feet.  So we use a pose that releases that fascial line as well as releasing the muscles themselves. As Dr. Brian Abelson put it “Bottom Line: You can try treating a hamstring injury with all the right techniques (ART,Graston, Massage etc.) and find that you still have not resolved a chronic problem you need to consider, and treat, the fascial interconnections.”

posterior_facial_line
 
Uttanasana is great for stretching and releasing the hamstrings and the fascia of the back body. Not only does it release the hamstrings, but also the hips, calves, neck, and shoulders. In addition to those benefits, this posture can increase circulation to the brain, pituitary, and thyroid glands. To take it to the next level, we throw in the variation of the “hip tip” to release muscles and fascia around the tailbone, the root of the body and spine.

anatomy1Picture from “Yoga Anatomy” by Leslie Kaminoff 

Direction for Uttanasana

  • We begin this posture in a standing position, with feet directly underneath the hips, toes pointed forward or slightly pigeon toed.
  • Fold forward at the hips with hands, arms, and head hanging heavy towards the floor. You can nod your head yes and no to relax the neck to make sure the head is hanging heavy. It’s important for the head to hang heavy, because the weight of the head is what lengthens the spine and the connective tissue of the back body.
  • For a deeper variation the arms can be crossed by grabbing your elbows so the weight of the arms pulls the body deeper into the posture. Or if the hands do not reach the floor, you can rest them on a block or chair. The posture can be held for 2-3 mins
  •  
    Directions for Uttanasana with a Hip Tip

  • Begin in Uttanasana with the hands supported on the floor, a block or a chair.
  • Straighten your right leg and bend the left knee, leaning into the head of the right thigh. Keep both feet completely flat on the floor, with toes glued down to the floor. If it is too intense, take bend out of the knee, or make the support for the hands taller so that you are propped up higher.
  • Linger there for 90 seconds taking long, full deep breaths into the lower abdomen, then switch sides. It’s important not to stay longer than 90 seconds per side, because releasing to deeply may cause pain the following day.
  •  
    This posture can be done daily, before or after working out. For the alternate version with the hip tip, best to only do twice per day so as to avoid relapse (where the body works to maintain homeostasis by tightening and closing the area opened through the postures, thus causing pain in the area). We hope you and your hamstrings enjoy!

    Mikyö Martin
    CMT, CYT​ and Certified Emotional Freedom Practitioner

    QRA Practitioner and Ayurvedic Intern
    Detox and Diet and Lifestyle Consulting
    Sweet Life Natural Health
     
    Mikyö Martin is a certified massage and yoga therapist, and uses Quantum Reflex Analysis, Emotional Freedom Sessions, and the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda in her practice.  She focuses on natural detoxification, nutrition, and removing mental, emotional, and physical blockages so that you can experience greater levels of health and joy.

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