by Michaelle Edwards, YogAlign
"Hamstring stretching has been listed as a remedy for sciatica, back, hip, and leg pain. Fitness and yoga courses instruct people how to stretch their hamstrings by bending forward from standing or lying with the knees straight and ankles flexed creating a targeted stretch for the hamstring muscles.
Stretching the hamstring muscles will not make them longer because the tension or contraction of a muscle is under control of the nervous system. You simply cannot make a muscle longer by pulling on it. Hamstrings do not exist in isolation from the rest of the body; where the global reality is that all parts affect the whole. Many people injure their spine and lower backs, tear or inflame hamstring tendon attachments and even rupture discs doing stretches such as seated and standing forward bends in yoga.
Why do my hamstrings feel short and tight?
Hamstrings are most likely not short and tight but long, tense and weak. Pulling on them will only give a few minutes of relief as the stretch reflex in the nervous system creates inhibitory signals to create length and keep tissues from tearing. When doing compartmentalized hamstring stretching like forward bends, the feeling of relief from the stretch reflex only lasts about 20 minutes and then the hamstrings feel tight again. For this reason, hamstring stretches never seem to work and must be repeated over and over. Hamstrings are ‘tight’ because the front body is short so shortening the front body to stretch the back is like digging a hole in the sand.
Why then do my hamstrings feel tense?
Most people sit a lot during the day and this weakens the back muscles and hamstrings. Breathing muscles are inhibited and the muscles of the back body are not working since the chair back works like a brace. In particular, the groin and hip flexor muscles shorten and when we stand up, they still retain a shortness that puts a strain on the extensor chain (muscles of the back body)" Read full article here.
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