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Tight Hamstrings Despite Good Flexibility?

Nick Wilson2010-07-04 19:50:55 +0000 #1
Hi everyone,

I have been practicing Yoga for about 5mts, and do it 3-4 times a week. Mostly the sun salutations a/b and standing poses from ashtanga yoga, and then rodney yee's power yoga: total body (i live in the country, no chance of an real instructor im afraid...)

I have very tight hamstrings, they always feel sore as i start to work out, even though once warmed up i can easily put my head to my knees in standing forward bend. In fact, despite good all round flexibility once warmed up, i have lots of aches and pains in muscles i stretch during my yoga workouts -- surely this should have gone some months back and i should be enjoying good flexibility and LESS pain in my body by now?

Some things that are probably important:I have bad low back pain. Im seeing the umpteenth chiro for it, and she has me inserting a 5mm step in my right shoe
I have no core strength at all it seems (much research and experimentaion on my part leads me to this conclusion) and am working on it with an stability ball
Up the left side of my ribs one muscle really hurts all the time, even when i breathed a few months back, though i now regularly stretch it and it seems to be slowly easing
Sheeesh.... hope that's not too much info. Just looking for some opinion i guess. Im off to see (yet another) physio in a couple of weeks so i can see what they say also..


mikesbytes2010-07-04 20:05:09 +0000 #2
Hi Nick, while I'll leave the answer to the experts, I'll ask you how much has your hamstring flexibility improved over the last 5 months?
Nick Wilson2010-07-04 20:02:07 +0000 #3
Hi Mike,

well i've always been able to touch my toes, or just about. So not really a flexibility issue before yoga. Now i can touch head to knees once warmed up...

The morning after a session though, i have aching hamstrings, and need a real good warm up before i can get them loosened again..
Hubert2010-07-04 20:37:30 +0000 #4
Sounds like you are doing those forward bends too agressivley, on the expense of your lumbar area. The lumbar spine should be flat, and the bending done from the hips. It does not matter how low you can get, if you respect these. Try it, you'll see with your lower abdomen flat and extended, lower back straight and not bent forward, you'll not be able to get that low, but that is not what you must follow anyway. You must feel a "healthy" stretch in the back of your legs, without putting to musch stress on your lower back.

Core strenght is very important for the lumbar area's saftey.

I recommend a visit to an experienced yoga teacher, who will advise a fitting asana set.

I'd say stop those foward bends, both sitting and standing for a while, open the hamstrings one tigh at a time, lying on your back (Supta Padanghustasana), do asanas for core strenght (various planks, trikonasana).
Nick Wilson2010-07-04 21:19:00 +0000 #5

You must feel a "healthy" stretch in the back of your legs, without putting to musch stress on your lower back.

That's exactly how I feel Hubert. Once warmed up it is no effort to touch head to knees in standing forward bend, and feels good on my back aswell as my legs.. it's the next day i feel i have tight hamstrings, they just dont seem to 'recover'...
Nick Wilson2010-07-04 21:57:49 +0000 #6
Oh, and what is Supta Padanghustasana? I have no way to get to an instructor and a google image search turned up upward dog, which that isn't right?
InnerAthlete2010-07-04 20:31:37 +0000 #7
Actually Nick it's not enough information!

We know nothing of you. The only tool we have for assessing you over the Internet is the verbal picture you paint of you. And while you outline your practice fairly well you don't say much about you.

How old are you?

What do you do for a living?

What do you do with your day?

I'm asking about how you live.

What is your diet like?

What is your size and weight?

That having been said, the assertion that one is flexible merely from touching the head to the knees in standing forward bends is an inaccurate one, to say the least. The larger question is "from where are you mobile and is that an appropriate place to be mobile from"?

Yoga is not about flexibility. Yoga is about moving some things and stabilizing others. How odd then that no one ever says "I can really still my quadratus lumborum, I must be a very experienced yogi". The omnipresence of avidya. We drip with it.

If you have or had bad low back pain (again a very general statement that tells nothing other than that there is discomfort in the back body somewhere somehow) then it is very likely there is a lack of integrity in your forward bending action - be it standing or seated. Since I have to guess from the handful of pieces of the 500-piece puzzle presented I'd say this:

Your forward bends are not coming from mobility in your pelvis they are coming from mobility in your spine. I'd further guess you are overdoing in your lumbar spine, that the sacrum is flowing counter to the pose (away from rather than with the spine) and I'd advocate you take height under your sitting bones to tip the pelvis forward AND focus on resting the ribs on the upper thighs NOT the head on the knees.

If your hamstrings are continuously sore over time then I would advise looking at a) your nutrition and b) the practice you've selected. It presents a quandry when a student selects a yoga practice that facilitates pain and injury both in the moment and over time.

You know that old definition of insanity, right? "Doing he same thing over and over again and expecting the results to be different".
Nick Wilson2010-07-04 21:49:13 +0000 #8
Ok, so let me try and answer a couple of those questions...

I am 36

I work at the computer 8hrs a day, in 2 sittings with breaks each hour or so to go get tea, stretch a bit etc.

I have a big 4 or even 5hr break from 3pm till 7/8pm when i walk my dogs for an hour, cook dinner, and do family stuff.

My diet is low fat, and almost no red meat. Mostly vegetarian (fresh veg, lots of fruit) and a few indian chicken and rice dishes we like. (oh, and lots of lentils, other pulses)

I don't know what i weigh, i dont keep scales in the house but im 5ft8 and not overweight (can pinch an inch and half on the middle.. but it's going down.......)

Here's one important point I think you and Hubert may have missed: I've had chronic low back pain for a long time (6yrs i think), it's not caused by my bends, though of course i could STILL be doing it wrong and not helping it... Actually though, yoga, despite the muscle aches has been a lifeline for someone with chronic low back pain. I get far less than i used to, and I feel very fit and alert, something my previously unhealthy lifestyle certainly didnt help me with!

As for solution. I think giving a few days rest to make sure there is no ache in hamstrings and then continuing with your excellent advice re chest on thighs, not head on knees mixed with a little caution (ie not bend to far past the tightness point) might be a good step for me -- it certainly seems sensible at least. and I've been working on this series of asanas today, which i hope will help my core: Yoga Journal - Yoga Home Practice - Core of Support:

I love yoga. I have a hard time relaxing as i tend to do it in the evenings and my mind races but i still feel fitter than i ever have and it's a very nice feeling indeed! My wife did point out to me that I have a tendency to 'over do it' though, and she's right. So I will conciously try to go a little easier on stretches and see what happens.

Any more advice would be most welcome, and i'll post back when there is something to report from all of this..




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