Yoga for Men: 3 Poses for Hamstrings & Lower Backache
Or really anyone who needs extra hamstring and lower back release...
Author: Kelly Foong | Editor: Jamie Zhou | Photography: Jowing Zhang | Demo: Kelly Foong & Jamie Zhou
Have tight hamstrings or experience lower back sensitivity? If you sit all day at a desk, run, play sports or go to the gym, then the below yoga poses are great to counterbalance the effects from your daily grind. It seems like everything we do causes us tightness in the hamstrings.
Why stretch your hamstrings: Tight hamstrings is one of the most common contributors to lower back pain as tight hamstrings can pull your lower back muscles. Loosening out your hamstrings will not only help alleviate lower back pain but also assists with active recovery and increases range of motion to help you hit a new PR with your squat or deadlift if you’re a gym junkie.
The below poses and its modifications make it accessible to everyone. Bonus: while opening up your hamstrings, these poses when done mindfully, will provide you with a delicious spine lengthening. Try to focus on length in your spine as you stretch the hamstrings - we do not want to be counterproductive and cause more pain in the lower back!
Don’t have the necessary props? Here are some household alternatives!
Blocks – a stack of books
Blanket – towel, rolled up clothes
1. Ardha Uttanasana (Half Standing Forward Bend)
If you’ve ever dabbled in yoga, you will probably have encountered this pose multiple times with the teacher cueing “inhale – halfway lift; flat back” before cueing you to fold forward completely. Many of us are guilty of just speeding through this half-heartedly as if it is not a pose with merit on its own (hands up if you’ve ever been guilty of this!).
Benefit: Ardha uttananasana not only opens up our hamstrings but also encourages us to balance out flexibility with strength by working the muscles along the spine. Once length is found in the spine, this length translates well to prepare us to fold fully into our next pose - uttanasana (standing forward fold).
Using Props: Set your feet away from the wall, using your hands to brace against the wall, send your bum back to the wall. You can either place your hands on blocks or if you don’t have anything handy, press your hands into your knees or shin. Tilt your bum back and push it against the wall whilst firming your thighs back. Actively press down with your hands to keep the spine lifted and reach the crown of the head forward whilst drawing the shoulders down your back. Keep your gaze straight down to avoid tensing the neck and to encourage your head to be in line with the rest of your spine.
2. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
Benefit: Stretches your hamstrings, calves and ankles. Relieves tension in your spine and neck.
Focus On: You can come into uttanasana from ardha uttansana. Think of keeping the knees bent with your feet hip distance apart until your belly comes to your thigh. Superglue the belly and thighs together as you try to lift your sitting bones up to the sky. Only go as far as you can maintain the belly and thigh connection to avoid rounding your back and pulling your lower back muscles instead.
Below are some ways to work and target slightly different areas depending on your focus but try to keep the common focus detailed above in all modifications.
Modification 1: Feet on Blocks/Blanket – Calves & Ankles Focus
Place the balls of your feet either onto blocks or a rolled up blanket with the heels of the feet down on the ground.
Modification 2: Blanket Between Belly & Thighs – Minimising Back Rounding
Roll up a blanket and wedge it between your belly and your thighs. You might need to adjust the thickness of the rolled blanket to suit your present needs. Try not to allow the blanket to drop.
Modification 3: Leaning Against the Wall – Spine Lengthening & Mind Calming
You have to try this one! The longer you stay, the more you will feel yourself sliding down. Keep pressing your back into the wall and grab onto opposite elbows to relax. This is great to calm your mind down and reduce stress.
3. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
How could we not include the most iconic yoga pose?
Benefits: Stretches the hamstrings, calves and ankles. Lengthens your spine whilst building upper body strength and stability.
How To: Keep the hands shoulder distance apart and feet hip distance apart. Set up in a plank with the shoulders stacked over hands and heels stacked over balls of the feet. Without moving your hands or feet, just send your bum up and back. This is roughly the length of your downward dog. Keep pushing the mat away from you strongly to lift the bum up and back.
Using Props: Set two blocks up against the wall so it will not move. Set up for downdog with your heels on the block. This helps bring the “floor” up to meet you instead so you can still actively ground the heels down into the blocks as you firm the thighs back to the wall.
Partner Work: If you have a willing human, get them to come into a nice lunge position and with their hands on either side of your hips, push up and back (think in an upward diagonal direction instead of straight back). This will help lengthen your spine (notice the difference between the two photos above) and take some weight off your wrists.
Happy practising! If you can, come into the studio to have full complimentary use of our props. These are great poses to do whilst waiting for a class to start and get yourself settled in. If you would like to receive more tips like these, subscribe to our newsletter by entering your email at the bottom of the page so you never miss out! We will also be expanding the studio soon so subscribe to receive an official invite from us in October 2018.