This can be a contributing factor to your low back pain, or knee problems, or can put the brakes on any desire to "try yoga". And if you already DO yoga, it can really affect your experience in some of the more challenging and faster-paced classes.
Here are my 3 tips for befriending those hammies so you are in less pain and freer to enjoy any activity!
I mean - really. Breathe.
Pay attention to how you are breathing. If you are bound up in your muscles, chances are
your mind is also a knot of thoughts/feelings/impulses and could use a time out. The fastest way to calm a souped-up nervous system is to breathe.
Try taking 5, very deep, very full, VERY SLOW concentrated breaths. Be patient with these 5 breaths and feel them from start to finish. Notice how your breath relaxes your body and clears out the chattiness and physical tension.
Get some blood flowing! If you’re sitting for too long, those hip flexors and hamstrings are going to stay tight. Try moving into and out of gentle stretches first. This kind of exploratory
movement is called PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) and research shows that
it's more effective at making permanent changes to muscle tone because it creates new neural pathways in the brain. (Interesting how the brain is being mentioned more than once here...)
Do I sound hokey? Yeah, I guess I do. But I haven't always been hokey. I used to punish my tight hamstrings by getting into impossibly deep stretches and just letting those fibers rip.
Based on what you've already read, this is not the most efficient way to stretch anything. And
I can tell you I spent 9 months not doing ANYTHING after tearing a tendon. Had I done it with love, my knotted up muscles and my knotted up mind would have responded more readily.
And if love is too much to ask, why not try curiosity? Use this gentle progressive movement and breath to "have a conversation" with your muscles. See what they have to teach you!
Watch the video below for a great way to change tight hamstrings
This video is from my teacher training series and shows 3 different adaptations for stretching hamstrings (including a chair adaptation) so that you can start having your own curious conversations at home!