No pigs were hurt in the making of this great Hamstring stretch (see the joke there, yes, no, groan? :-). Sometimes, as a receiver, it feels like this pose has so much going on that you just don’t know where to focus your attention – you’ve got a nice twist in the spine, the front of the shoulder is opening, your hamstrings in the back of your leg are stretching and, on top of all that, your partner is massaging your IT Band – whew! Sometimes it is just this sort of intensity you need to be able to really let go in a massage. There is so much going on that the mind has to say, “Ok, Ok, I give in, do what you will.” And when the mind releases, so too can the rest of the body. It’s a wonderful thing!
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How to do the Ham Twist Stretch for Hamstrings (and more!):
- Press your partner’s knee toward their chest and then straighten the leg.
- Guide the leg across their body into a twist while you step your inside leg across their lower leg.
- With your knee down leg close to the leg you stepped across, your other leg (outside leg) should be in a side lunge position.
- Place the back of their ankle on your shin, as far up or down as it needs to be. May need to angle your lower leg to support their ankle. But if they are flexible and their leg slides all the way down to your foot, it’s ok, as long as they are comfortable.
- You may have to adjust your position for each other’s body proportions here. Ultimately, you want to create a tension that will not require you to hold their foot with your hand but that won’t over-stretch their hamstrings. This may require that you take your foot closer to the head of the mat.
- Use your shin position to stretch their leg comfortably taut and the foot should stay in place.
- With their leg fixed in place, place your inside hand on their hip, directly above their femur head (this is the bony part of the outer hip) and lean in to keep a comfortable pressure.
- Use your outside hand to give compressions from the hip to about 3/4 of the way to the knee (NEVER near the knee) and back again several times.
- To exit, lift their leg up as you gracefully step yourself back to the inside of the lower leg to untwist them.
- Don’t forget the other side!
Benefits: Stretch for the hamstrings, ITB Stretch and compressive release. Gentle twist for low back.
Cautions: Be VERY mindful of not putting pressure on the knee. Note that people often gain a fair amount of flexibility during this pose, be prepared to adjust your stance accordingly.
Remember the sensation of your partner taking you into this pose and bring it into your own yoga practice. Lying on your back, shift your hips to the right, lift the sole of your right foot to the sky. The left leg is extended on your mat, long and strong. Take your right leg across your body into a twist. Now, begin to explore, looking for the sensation your partner found for you in your massage. Try flexing the right foot, internally or externally rotating the hip, lengthening the side waist, taking your right foot close or further from your shoulder. Mmmm…. delicious!
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