Frustrated trying to stretch your tight hamstrings? There are other ways to coax them to open. Here are three ways to trick your hamstrings into opening up.

1). Foot Massage

No joke. Give your soles a rub. You can do it with your hands or roll your feet around on any suitable object. I'm a fan of therapy balls myself, but any roly-poly object will do. Old-fashioned Coke bottles work well, just don't break the glass! How does massaging the underside of your foot facilitate hamstring opening? Keep in mind that every muscle in your body is connected to other tissues. These connections form tissue trains (to use Tom Myers's term). Your hamstrings are directly connected to the soles of your feet—and to many, many other body parts. This is a bit gory, but you can dissect a cadaver and cut a strip of back-body connective tissue that's so long you can hold the eyebrow and dangle the toes. Your hamstrings are part of that strip. When you release any part of the strip, you release the whole. (This, by the way, is why you might catch yourself raising your eyebrows in paschimottansana, full seated forward bend. Elevating the brows toward the hairline takes the back line a bit off the stretch.)

2). Stretch Your Feet

Kneel with your toes curled under and sit on your heels. Same anatomical concept. Back in my dancing years I was instructed to manually peel my toes back toward the top of my foot in order to lengthen my hamstrings right before auditions. Now I understand why. The effects are temporary, but can contribute to a change in overall hamstring length over time. Plus, it's a relief for shoe-bound feet. Especially if you wear shoes like mules and flip-flops that require you to grip your feet in order to remain shod as you walk.

3). Trick your hamstrings!

Really, they're suckers and they fall for it every time. Here's how: Lie on your back with your left knee bent and your left foot flat on the floor. Bend your right knee into your chest. Place a yoga block—or a kitchen towel—behind your right thigh. Pull your thigh away from your trunk and into the block or towel. Keep pulling for 8-10 breaths. Then straighten your knee as much as possible and pull your leg toward your trunk for 5 breaths or so. Repeat twice. You'll notice a change in hamstring length right away. As with technique #2, the length change won't be permanent. But if you do this daily (on both sides, of course), you can over time open the backs of your legs. Why does this work? Tendons connect your hamstrings to your sitting bones and to your shin bones. Receptors, called Golgi Tendon Organs, live in these connective tissues. The Golgis are responsible for recognizing when a muscle is working too hard. When they sense that happening, they report the finding to the brain. The brain then sends a message to the muscle to let go. Have you ever unintentionally and suddenly dropped a heavy object you were struggling to carry? This is why. When you pull your thigh into the block or towel you trigger the Golgis. They run the necessary paperwork to the bureaucrat upstairs and the command comes down to the hamstrings: Let go! Your hamstrings obey.

Your hamstrings are the ultimate marks. You just need to employ the proper carnie tricks.

About the Author: Jennie Cohen, E-RYT 500, teaches classes, privates, and teacher trainings in New York City and internationally. Precise instruction and focused sequencing create an experience that is both informative and transformative. Jennie's fascination with anatomy and her studies of the texts that form yoga's philosophical foundation infuse her classes. Teaching schedule available at and at

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