Protect your Hamstrings with this Single Action

yoga postures May 30, 2020

Forward bends, especially forward bends in seated positions can become uncomfortable for the lower back of the back of the legs.
This post explains one simple trick to protect hamstrings from being pulled, while at the same time facilitating safe progression of mobility with ongoing practice.

Seated forward bends might not be everybody’s friend. Lack of mobility on the back of the body reduces the ability of the hips to tilt forward relative to the legs. Spinal flexion can also be limited.

With an eagerness to still move into poses, it is unfortunately quite common for hamstrings and lower backs to become sore, if not strained or injured from forward bending practice.

The muscles on the back of the legs, the hamstrings, along with the back portion of the inner leg muscles, the adductors, can resist hip flexion.

When tensioned, as it happens in forward bends, the back of the body needs to lengthen.  From the feet to the head assorted muscles reach along limited areas, while a fascial continuum covers the entire area.
We can easily appreciate that not every part of the body has the same mobility or resistance.
When we move into postures, a forward bend for example, some areas will be more stretchy and flexible, while others aren’t. That’s the obvious part.
When performing repeated forward bends while experiencing tension in the back of the legs, it is highly likely the same flexible part of the legs stretches while the more resistant area stays, well, more resistant to stretching.

Over time, depending on how often and how deeply we stretch, the more flexible area gets overworked, if not overstretched.
Remember, this likely is only a small flexible fraction of the muscle length we’re pushing to provide the mobility of a greater length of tissue.
The junction areas, where a relatively softer flexible section connects to a relatively tighter section are more vulnerable. This vulnerability is noticed often in the upper hamstring area, or inner thigh area close to the sitting bones.

The initial and common adjustment to protect screaming hamstrings is to bend the knees. Certainly this action provides some beneficial effect by reducing general tension on the back of the body. However, the tension distribution pattern along the back body doesn’t change. The stretchy areas remain the stretchy ones and the tight areas remain tight.

The trick to both muscle protection and ultimately flexibility increase lies in supporting the flexible areas more and encouraging the resistant areas to join in the flexibility quest.

When we engage, or tension the muscles of an area the tonal increase on the fascia network distributes the pulling forces. The three dimensional fascia fibre network relays the pul in the multiple fibre directions,  resulting in reduction of linear pull on the vulnerable sections of a muscle and, at the same time, coaxing some mobility from the previously unchallenged tighter areas.
The win-win for stretching lies in engaging muscles not relaxing them. Engagement turns linear forces into a three dimensional force matrix including more body areas and components by more even force distribution.

In the case of the sore hamstrings and inner leg muscles, any action that engages the legs will contribute to levelling fascia and muscle tone.
In the video I describe the pressing the base of the big toe as such an activation of the whole leg.
pointing the foot only would be largely an action of the back of the leg
flexing the foot relies mainly on the front of the leg
turning the foot in or out favours the relevant side of the leg.

Thus, pressing the ball of the big toe forward get pretty close to using some activation from all sides, front, back, inside and outside of the leg.
This all-round leg activation leaves no part of the leg, including the hamstrings unprotected and no part overly tight and resistant.

This of course, doesn’t make you a flexible gymnast over night. It helps though to keep the body, hamstrings, joints and all free from injury and provides the muscle activation that is needed to move with control.

Go ahead, activate your base of the big toe and evolve your practice with a connected body.

To learn more about the fascial network, it’s force transmission capabilities as well as the actual muscle tissue arrangements, take a look at the AnatomyShow courses for your area of interest.

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