A few weeks ago we were focusing on hamstrings. We learned that there there are three hamstrings running down the back of the leg to either side of the back of the knee. They attach to the bone via long TENDONS, which give them their name since they look like strings. They are called:
– [ ] semitendinosus,
– [ ] semimembranosus and – [ ] biceps femoris
They help your knee flex (first 2) and your leg straighten out (last one).
Hamstrings and IT bands are the more vulnerable parts of the body. It can be intense to work here. How we respond to resistance is a big part of the practice of working with these muscles and adding a sprinkling of compassion for your body will help you gently release in this area.
The health of your lumbar spine (specifically the L1-L5 vertebrae and discs) is directly affected by the action of the hip flexors and hamstrings. The more you use the legs correctly, the less strain is put on the back. If you sit a lot, with your knees bent and your pelvis tilted under, then your hamstrings can tighten.
When hamstrings are tight the pelvis pulled down in posterior tilt, there is stress on the lower back and the knees and hips are misaligned.
Hamstrings might be shortened which causes mechanical tightness and causes back pain. Often they kick in instead of the core. But Hammy’s can be lengthened (usually in dancers) which causes neurological tightness where the muscle is fully lengthened and the brain sends down a signal to avoid them snapping. So if you have tight hamstrings, don’t look longingly at your neighbour on the mat who has long ones because that isn’t necessarily a good thing. In the case of the long hamstrings, the body needs to be retrained to engage the glutes before movement is initiated. You can experiment with this by lying down on your mat and first getting the glutes engaged, then the quads, then lifted the leg with the strap in. Stretching the quads can also be helpful as they are often doing all the work and have become tightened.
In the words of Jeff Foster, compassion is really developed in ourselves when we take our focus away from what we lack in comparison to others and shine a light on our true greatness:
Stop comparing yourself with other people.
Take your focus off what they have, their success. Their happiness. Their wonderful relationships. Their achievements. Their abundance.
When you compare, you experience lack, envy: resistence to you, where you are, what you have you feel far from where you should be, far from home, far from life.
But life is here, life is never far away. Take your attention off others, and invite it closer to where you are, to the breath, the sensations of the body. Feel your connection with the earth, your rootedness in presence. Allow yourself to feel what you – sadness, anger, even despair. Let these ancient guests move through your body today. You didn’t create them and it’s not your job to get rid of them.
You are not a fixed person in time and space, but a vessel, a present capacity for every thought, every feeling, every hope, every dream, every wave of sorrow and bliss.
Your abundance lies in your breath, friend, your closeness to the earth, your originality, your open heart, your ability to laugh at the seriousness of this world.
You are vast and beyond compare.