Do you have tight hamstrings? Are your toes just a bit far out of reach?
Problems with your hamstrings can have knock on effects with the rest of your body.
It's not unusual, but yoga can definitely help!
My name is Al, and whilst I'm not one of the YQ teachers, I'm certainly reaping the benefits of yoga. I have always had very tight hamstrings, mainly due to lots of running and strengthening exercises and not enough stretching. Since taking yoga classes with Anne I have noticed a huge difference.
Whilst before I was a long way from touching my toes, (more like somewhere around my shins) I can now touch them with ease. I used to get back problems and my posture wasn't very good. Physiotherapists had told me beforehand that these problems were all linked to my tight hamstrings; they were shorter so effectively pulled my hips forward, thereby moving my back slightly out of line and ultimately damaging my posture.
This is a common theme from having tight leg muscles, as noted by Sarah Ramsden a yoga instructor for many Premiership football players:
"If you are tight through the muscles around the hips – hamstrings, groin, glutes, quads, hip flexors – then you usually develop a pattern of excess movement and compression in the lower spine which results in back problems"
Normal stretching is always advised before and after doing sport, but I have found that yoga is a very effective way to help alleviate all of these issues. It is a joint practise of breathing, stretching and strengthening that has really made the difference. Also, if the session is fun it certainly makes a change from the old fashioned 'boring' stretching routine!
It's reassuring to know that I'm not alone, although it is more often men who suffer from problematic hamstrings- many of us really struggle to enjoy sitting cross legged in the yoga classes unlike our female yogi counterparts! Indeed, the famous football player Ryan Giggs is a strong advocate of yoga, and credited it with keeping him playing football at the highest level until he was 40 years old. He has even released a DVD on his fitness regime, including the yoga- see it here.
Often the hamstrings are blamed for generic muscular problems in the legs, although they are a common fault. Most of the moves in yoga help to stretch all of these muscles, and ease any pain caused by other forms of excercise. Just think about downward facing dog for example- we are aiming to get our legs straight, with the heels on the ground. We've also got the forward folding poses prasarita padottanasana and parsvottanasana that really work the back of the legs.
Lots of people are often put off yoga becuase they aren't flexible enough. I can see how it might appear daunting to be in the same class as someone who can fold themselves in two whilst you can't even sit cross legged. But believe me, the benefits are felt equally, if not more so, because you are probably working far harder. I should know, I've been there and although my legs are still very tight the improvement has been vast and noticeable.
So come along to a Yoga Quota class, ask your instructor about it, and don't let yourself be hamstrung by those pesky hamstrings!!