What is a Thigh Bicep? (aka: Hamstrings 101)
The hamstring, which Bikram refers to as the “thigh bicep,” refers to any one of the three posterior thigh muscles that make up the borders of the space behind each knee. Tight hamstrings may occur as a result of sitting for long periods of time or wearing high heels (both activities cause the muscles to contract and tighten), though some people are simply born with short (i.e., tight) hamstrings. At the opposite end of the spectrum: naturally bendy types with overly flexible hamstrings.
The trouble with hamstrings, whether they’re tight or not, is their susceptibility to injury. If you don’t warm up properly before running or playing sports, for example, you risk pulling or tearing your hamstring by overstretching it. When it comes to protecting your hamstrings – not to mention healing them when an injury has occurred – keeping them well stretched can make a difference.
Image [Source] – Brainless Tales
Bikram Yoga for Tight Hamstrings (aka: Bend it Like Bikram)
A regular Bikram Yoga practice can help prevent hamstring injury by keeping these leg muscles long, lean and limber. Several Bikram Yoga postures in the hot yoga series are particularly helpful when it comes to targeting the backs of the thighs:
- Hands to Feet Pose
- Standing Head to Knee
- Standing Separate Leg Stretching
- Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee
- Stretching Pose
The common factor here is the forward bend. Bending forward from your hips creates “tremendous stretching” in your legs. But, if you want to gain the benefits, you have to do it right.
Top Tips for Hamstring Stretches (aka: Take it Easy, Sweetheart)
Bikram Choudhury’s top tips for safe, effective hamstring stretching in the hot room: don’t be too aggressive or impatient, honour your boundaries and stay focused on the task at hand (or, in this case, leg). No matter what condition your hamstrings are in, rushing in or out of postures or executing them poorly could cause problems.
More good advice for tight hamstrings:
- Before going into any yoga posture, make sure you have proper balance and alignment by squaring your hips toward the mirror, leveling your shoulders and/or distributing your body weight evenly over your feet. Any misalignment or muscle imbalance can throw your body off centre and make you more prone to injury.
- Always remember to breathe. Oxygen deprivation can lead to muscle spasms and pain. According to Bikram, deep breathing is best for dealing with lots of resistance.
- Working to strengthen the muscles, tendons and ligaments that surround and support your hamstrings can also help reduce your risk of injury in and out of the hot room. Awkward Pose, Standing Bow Pulling Pose, Balancing Stick, Triangle and Bow Pose target some of the critical areas around the hamstrings.