Transcript of: How do I open my hips and hamstrings for forward bending
Hey everybody! Welcome to this month’s question of the month. You know what to do. If you’ve got a question, go to yoganatomy.com/myquestion. And don’t forget to subscribe to my channel! Alright, this month’s question of the month comes from Geeta. It’s about how to open the hips and hamstrings for forward bending.
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Thank you for all your work in bringing a deep analysis of the science of anatomy to the yoga practice. I have been practicing yoga for more than three years now and still cannot manage any version of forward folds (standing or seated). My back is always rounded as I believe my hips and hamstrings are super tight thus my barrier. Can you explain the anatomy in action here and what is my best approach to improve?
Okay! Good question. Geeta, you didn’t say how often you practice. Are you practicing every day, six days a week? What level of intensity are you practicing with? Because, when you show up with really tight hips (that’s general) and hamstrings (more specific)—that could come from genetics, or if you know me, converging histories. If you don’t know about my converging histories story, then you should buy a copy of Functional Anatomy of Yoga, where I talk about this.
Factors affecting hip and hamstring tension
Are there other activities that you do on a regular basis that are adding to the tightness in your hips and hamstrings, in general? If so, that’s going to be part of what’s impeding you from more open hips and hamstrings, and being able to do your forward bends. So, you need to factor that in. You need to look outside of practice. What are you doing that’s preventing this or preventing it from progressing?
Also, look at frequency of practice. Are you doing one-day-a-week classes, three-day-a-week classes, five-day-a-week classes, or six-day weeks? Six days a week is going to be best to open those really tight hips and hamstrings.
And then, there’s intensity. Depending on your body type and constitution, you know, you might have to lean in, and I dare say, try harder. That doesn’t mean forever. And, that doesn’t mean without skillfulness. It also doesn’t mean that we’re talking about “no pain, no gain” kind of stuff. But, you might have to stay longer in the postures. That’s one way of increasing intensity. It doesn’t mean you just go “errrr” and push really hard. You have to factor all of these things in.
Lengthening the hamstrings
I think everybody is familiar enough at this point, that if you have tight hamstrings, it’s hard to forward bend and it rounds your spine. There’s no magic trick to releasing those hamstrings. I wish there were. Three years, again depending on how often you’ve been practicing, three years is not that long. But if you see no progress with respect to more open hips and hamstrings, then I have a feeling it’s going to be a matter of frequency or intensity. Alright? I don’t mean intensity in the most negative way. That’s just to be clear for the people who are going to put comments in there that I’m promoting hurting yourself or something.
Opening the hips
In terms of the hips, when I hear hips, I think the outside of the hips. Are you running? Or, are you cycling? Are you walking long distances on a regular basis? All of which are good things—they’re not bad things. But, keep in mind that they’re going to be counter-productive, potentially, when you’re starting and needing to open the hips and hamstrings for forward bending. Right? It’s the activities in relation to forward bending that might be problematic, not generally speaking.
Alright? Those are my guesses, based on what you wrote. I hope that helps. And for everybody, you know, sometimes it’s just about putting in the time and even questioning what it is you’re going to achieve if your spine is not rounded. I know, anatomically it’s not nice to see. And sure, it can compress discs and all kinds of stuff potentially, so we do want to be careful with it. Alright, Geeta, I hope I gave you some stuff to think about in this one. If you’ve got a question that you want me to answer, go to yoganatomy.com/myquestion.