Guest Blog: Ai Sullivan

As an endurance athlete clocking in endless training hours, chances are hamstrings and knee issues are no stranger to your overused legs!  Hamstrings are screaming “Please stretch me!”, so you flop over to zealously touch your toes to “stretch”…..Elasticity in the hamstring muscle is key to keeping the back and knees healthy – but to only some extent. Athletes engaging in sports with heavy emphasis on repetitive movements using the psoas, abs and quads as primary movers (cyclists, sprinters) tend to develop more strength in the quadriceps than the hamstring. When the quads are functionally stronger than the back of the legs, hyperextension is not uncommon. Hypermobility in the hamstring attachment will expose athletes to injuries – in order to avoid this try the following 3 yoga poses. These poses will help engage the hamstring while stretching, and athletes who are not hypermobile in the hamstrings can also benefit from this by learning not to lock out the knees and strengthening this muscle group.

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Uttiha Trikonansana -Trainagle Pose with Arms Extended

  1. Start with wide legs (legs few inches shorter than your wing span).
  2. Turn your right toes forward, and back toes angles out 45 degrees.
  3. Inhale; reach your arms up, lifting up though your ribcage.
  4. As you shift your hip back, reach your arms forward towards the right foot and imagine holding a large beach ball and aim to keep the right leg straight without locking the knees.
  5. Continue to press down through the right big toe, engage the calf, and lift the hamstring and quads by lifting the knee caps. Hold for 5 breath and repeat on left side.

* Set your lower arm on your shin or block if you are not able to reach the arms out. Be sure not to “dump” your weight on the block or shin.


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Parsvottonasana – Pyramid Pose with Airplane Arms

  1. Stand with feet hip width apart with yoga blocks on each side of the feet.
  2. Step your left foot back approximately 3-4ft and turn the back foot out slightly and ground the heels down as you press the pinky toes down.
  3. Inhale, reach your arms over your head and as you exhale hinge forward at the hips leading with your chest and straight spine. Try to keep your right leg as straight as possible without locking out the knees and place your hands on the yoga blocks.
  4. Continue to press down through the right big toe, engage the calf, and lift the hamstring and quads by lifting the knee caps. Hold for 5 breath and repeat on left side.
  5. Engage the abdominal muscles and low back to lift the trunk away from the front thigh. As you perform 4 and 5, reach the arms out and back like airplane wings and keeping the shoulders away from your ears.  Hold for 5 to 10 breaths and repeat on left side.

*Keep your hands on the yoga blocks if you are unable to maintain the integrity of the pose when the arms are extended out. 


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Urdhva Dhanurasana – Upward Facing Bow

  1. Lie on your belly and reach behind to grab the ankles or outside of the feet. If you cannot reach, simply interlace your hands behind your back, lift the chest up, roll the shoulders up and back and press the tops of the feet down to the mat.
  2. Kick the feet into the feet and peel the chest off the mat, sending the toes upward and unclench your gluteus. By releasing the gluteus the hamstring will become the primary mover, strengthening those muscles. Hold for 5 breath – repeat up to 5 rounds.
  3. Roll onto your back, draw your knees into your chest for a counter pose.

*Do not do this pose if you are pregnant or had recent internal organ surgery. If you have a sensitive back, keep your quads on the mat as you peel off the mat.


In the first two poses, the objective is to keep the back of the knee soft by using the hamstring muscle. In the back bend, keep in mind to use the hamstring – not the gluteus as the primary movers. It’ll also allow your lower back to release a bit more and allow the functionally weaker muscles a chance to strengthen.
Happy Stretching!

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