Many people begin practicing yoga as a way to increase their range of motion and overall flexibility, but deep stretching is not without risks. Each time a muscle is stretched, it puts a strain on the connecting tendons, which, over time, can weaken the tissue and lead to injury. This is especially true when it comes to hamstrings, as poses such as standing forward fold and yogic split are a consistent part of many series and classes.
You don’t have to give up hamstring stretches completely, however. There are a few simple steps you can take to keep your muscles safe without sacrificing flexibility along the way.
This one may go without saying, but under no circumstances should you dive into poses such as yogic split without warming up first. Get your blood flowing and your muscles warm with about 10 minutes of dynamic movements such as a brief walk or some squats before gently easing into deeper stretches.
Focus on Strength
The best way to prevent a stretching injury is to strengthen the muscles you’re too looking to lengthen. Incorporate exercises such as hamstring curls and bridge pose with leg lifts into your routine to strengthen hamstrings and build resilience.
Don’t Push It
Wherever you are in your flexibility practice, it’s crucial to listen to your body. As tempting as it may be to push through pain when you’re working toward nailing a particular pose, ignoring your body’s signals is a surefire way to give yourself an injury. Stretch until you feel a mild discomfort, but ease off if the sensation starts to become painful.