Friday, October 8, 2010
Take Care of Your Legs
Whether we are aiming for longer leaner gams, an increase in range of motion or greater flexibility, we all need to care for our hamstrings when engaging in any form of exercise. None of us want to be the person that pulls up lame during an activity with a hamstring pull.
How can we strengthen our lower body and care for our hamstrings?
There are a couple of exercise that you can start adding to your routine.
The FIRST is A Seated Forward Bend, Paschimottanasana if you wish the Sanskrit term.
You may think the pose looks easy, how can it be worthwhile? It IS worth it after you set yourself up correctly for your body.
Sit on the floor with a folded blanket or bolster (bath towels work if that's what you have at home) just enough to slightly elevate your pelvis. Pull the flesh away from your sacrum so you are sitting evenly. Internally rotate your thighs and press actively through your heels. if you are caring for your knees and they remain bent...place a rolled towel under then so they can release (still actively pressing through your heels).
Inhale as you press your hands into the floor next to your side body (seams of your clothes). Allow your sternum to rise as you draw your shoulder blades together. As you exhale walk your fingers along the floor in the direction of your toes. Keep your back protected by drawing your navel in toward your spine. Think length...fold at hips, navel folds over thighs, heart over knees and crown of the head reaches toward your toes.
If your body is tight today...place another rolled blanket, towel or bolster between your torso and thighs. Allow your body to open as it melts into the bolster.
Once you have settled into your fold, turn your palms up and passively melt into the pose. As you inhale, lengthen and as you exhale...hold the stretch.
After a few minutes, continue to stay folded and low while allowing your palms to turn toward the ground once again. Use your left hand to hold outside your right leg and your right hand outside your left. Hold at the feet, ankles or up the calves...wherever you are today. The criss-cross with your arms will help you open your upper back. Inhale and lengthen your spine like a ruler, exhale and bend your elbows outward to allow space for a deeper fold. At this point, the criss-cross allows the upper back to open. You should feel a gentle stretch from spine to shoulder. Stay for a few breaths then release your hands. Turn your palms facing upward once again.
To return to upright, with a slow inhalation start to slide your hands toward your pelvis. Slowly re-stacking your spine, navel drawing in and shoulder blades meeting behind your back.
The Hamstrings were stretched. The fringe benefits...so too were the spine and shoulders, as well as the mind calmed and digestion improved. a
Next...Pilates for the Hamstrings...Single Leg Stretch
Photo Courtesy of YogaJournal.com