Next to our shoulders, one of the tightest muscles in our body is often our hamstrings. We spend a lot of our time sitting, causing these long, powerful muscles to atrophy. Some people are born with naturally flexible hamstrings, while the rest of us need to put in a bit of effort to keep the stabilizing gems long and supple.
If you have ever taken a yoga or exercise class that included hamstring stretching, you likely know that there is no muscle that can bring up issues of frustration more quickly. There is something in the hamstrings, which connect us from our root energy center to the ground, that bring up feeling of competitiveness, the desire to achieve and the accompanying experience of limitation. Of course, witnessing such is one of the great gifts of yoga.
This safe and simple exercise will give you an opportunity to continue to explore how life force moves through your body/being while also increasing the flexibility in your hamstrings. Watch for any tendency to push. Remember, YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine and yoga as a whole is not about how “far” you get, or how flexible you are. Yoga is about awakened presence. Remember to welcome wherever you may be without competitiveness, judgment, or wanting. In this, you already begin to achieve the meaning of yoga, to be in non-resistance to the fullness of life in this moment, right here and now.
Remember, before you proceed, please do Savasana and at least The Breathing Wave to cultivate awareness of how life-force energy moves through your body/being. Ideally, you do all exercises that lead up to this one. The series in these magazine issues is designed to build one exercise upon the next to best help you reap the full benefits of this unique and powerful YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine practice.
1. Find a quiet and relaxed environment where you can lie on the floor. Use a towel or yoga mat if you like.
2. After doing Savasana, The Breathing Wave or Discovering The Wave, draw in life force through your breath through the whale spout at the crown of your head, down the tube of breath that is your spine. Allow that energy to travel, on the inhale right down to your toes. Feel your whole body breathing.
3. While lying on your back, take hold of the right leg, leaving the left leg on the ground. If you find that creates too much stress on your hamstring, simply bend the left leg and place your foot on the ground. The intention here is to keep your right leg straight. Think of how a straight conduit will aid in energy travel.
4. As you inhale, point your right toes. Sense the energy move down your spine.
5. As you exhale, press out your right heel. Sense the energy move along your leg and out your foot. Sense the sole of your foot expand, as life-force energy expands there.
6. Allow your spine to rest neutral along the floor, as your hips release towards the ground. Avoid the tendency to want to roll the pelvis off the floor with your leg, to seem as though you gain more stretch.
7. Repeat for as long as you like. As your toes point, inhale. Heel presses, exhale. Feel your whole body breathing.
8. When you have had enough, bend your knee into your chest and hug it. Inhale, feel your belly rise, knee rises slightly, letting go of your grip a bit. Exhale, knee rests into your belly as it goes back, hugging your knee into the chest. Feel your spine long.
9. Rotate your knee around your hip in clockwise, and counterclockwise directions. Be mindful of every point you touch along this invisible circle you draw with your knee around your hip. Keep your chin, jaw and shoulders relaxed as you keep breathing into your belly.
10. Eventually, release your leg and bring your breathing back to what feels more normal for you. Take a few more long breaths and roll over onto your right side, before you press yourself up into sitting.
Parvati Devi is an award-winning musician (“I Am Light”, “Electro Yog”, “Yoga In The Nightclub”), yogini (YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine), author (“The Grace Mindset”, “Aonani of Avalon”, “The Three Supreme Secrets for Lasting Happiness”) and founder of the not-for-profit Parvati.org. All her work is dedicated to protecting all life on Earth by establishing the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary (MAPS). More info: parvati.tv and parvati.org.