In any type of offered yoga exercise course, we are bound to exercise a wealth of presents which stretch our hamstrings and also relatively couple of that actually strengthen them. This rarely-discussed imbalance in yoga sequencing has a tendency to take place for 2 primary reasons.

First of all, there just aren’t that lots of yoga asanas around which reinforce the hamstrings in a purposeful method. Even if a yoga instructor desired to concentrate specifically on hamstring strengthening in a certain course, she would have really couple of alternatives in the traditional yoga exercise pose canon where to select. Second, yoga exercise teachers are well mindful that a lot of their students have “tight” hamstrings, and there is a conventional idea in the yoga exercise globe (and in the fitness area generally) that it is not advisable to strengthen “limited” muscular tissues due to the fact that it will only make them tighter.

Today we’ll concentrate on the latter of these two issues: the concept that we should stay clear of strengthening our limited muscle mass since they are currently tight. This is a typical and also completely understandable belief among yogis. Besides, one of our fundamental objectives in our yoga technique is to cultivate equilibrium in our body. With this goal in mind, among the last things we would certainly wish to do is produce even more rigidity in a location that was currently tight-feeling to begin with.


asanaSurprisingly, the widely-used term “tight” typically means fairly different things to different individuals. The following are all probabilities wherefore a person might be describing when they claim they are “limited”:

-they typically aren’t able to stretch extremely much in a given direction
-their actual experienced sensation of their muscle mass when they stretch is “strict”
-the general, perpetual state of a specific muscle or group of muscles in their body is strict (i.e. “my hip flexors are tight from resting so much”)
-they encounter an unclear sense of achiness or pain somewhere in their body (i.e. “my low back really feels tight as well as strict”)
-something else entirely

The truth is that there is ultimately no science-based interpretation for the word “strict”. The term is a quite subjective one that everyone experiences uniquely in his/her own physical body. This lack of an actual bodily meaning for “limited” tosses right into question the extremely basis for the “strengthening tight muscle mass makes them tighter” belief. If there is no clear system wherefore “tight” is, any sort of regulation regarding the physical body based on this idea starts to lose its meaning.


Although the idea of “limited” does not have a physical interpretation, one commonly-shared idea regarding tightness is that the muscular tissue(s) concerned are shorter than they should be, and also the all-natural remedy to their “tightness/shortness” is to for that reason extend them back out by extending them.

meditationThis has been the leading standard concerning extending and “strict” muscles in the yoga exercise world (and the physical fitness community in general) for years. In my 2-part post collection Extending Is In Your Brain, I went over that unlike this “brief muscular tissues that have to be extended” concept, a more updated, research-based perspective on extending is the notion that our body’s versatility is rather regulated by our brain and also main anxious system via a system called stretch resistance. [Take a look at research study.] In summary, our inflexibility is not because of physically brief muscular tissues – it is rather as a result of our mind putting the brakes on our motion because it perceives that any sort of deeper of a stretch will certainly not be safe for us (as well as it’s possibly ideal!) The “rigidity” feeling that we experience at the end of our stretch is not the feeling of short muscular tissues getting to the end of their length, yet of an output of our mind in response to our stretch designed to indicate us to refrain from the movement.

Isn’t this a fascinating and perhaps psychedelic brand-new method to approach the body in regards to extending and our yoga exercise practice?



Paradigm-shifting apart, allow’s return to the major topic of this write-up, which is the usual belief that enhancing a limited muscular tissue will certainly make it tighter. Similarly that we often think the out-of-date suggestion that our inflexible muscles are “brief”, we additionally often think that strengthening a muscle mass will certainly physically alter that muscle so that it becomes shorter.

For instance, the hamstrings may be the number-one-cited area of “tightness” in the ordinary physical body. (However keep in mind that “rigidity” is a non-specific term without real scientific definition.) If we believe that our hamstrings are “strict” because they areshort, as well as if we also believe that reinforcing muscular tissues will literally shorten them, after that there is no chance that we would certainly ever think that enhancing our brief, strict hamstrings is a smart idea. Strict plus strict amounts to more tight, right?

yoga matIn enhancement to the example of the hamstrings, right here are a few other locations of the body to which we frequently apply this exact same logic:

our hip flexors are short from also much sitting, so we should not do hip flexor-strengthening moves

our spines are rounded-forward (hyperkyphotic) from way too much slouching, so we should not exercise conventional stomach job since it would certainly shorten our abdominal muscle mass as well as pull us right into even more of a slouch

our calves often be strict from high-heel (and other positive-heeled shoe) wearing, so we would not wish to enhance our calf bones since it would further tighten them

These arguments would absolutely make good sense if we were still running under the paradigm of physically-short muscular tissues that we lengthen back out by stretching. In the exact same way that we currently recognize that stretching a muscle doesn’t make it “longer”, we have also found out that strengthening a muscle mass does not make it “shorter”. Or to be much more accurate, there is little (if any kind of) proof to support the concept that strengthening a muscle mass creates it to structurally alter to make sure that its sitting size comes to be shorter.

As counterintuitive as it might appear (believe me, I understand!), enhancing muscles does not “tighten up”, “stiffen”, or “reduce” them – it doesn’t lower their adaptability at all. [Take a look at study.] As a matter of fact, if we strength train our muscle mass eccentrically (which means that our muscular tissues are active as they extend), this has been revealed to in fact increase their adaptability. [Take a look at research study.] So not just does strengthening a muscle not physically reduce it, however if done appropriately, it could enhance its stretch tolerance. This seems so in contrast to popular reasoning, once we understand that our muscles just do exactly what our powerful, communicative, and vibrant main nerve system tells them to do, these concepts begin to make more instinctive sense.

One vital note is that while enhancing doesn’t stiffen our muscle mass, it will stiffen up our connective tissue (which stands out from, although intertwined with, our muscle tissue) – however this is actually a preferable outcome. As I reviewed in Stretching Is In Your Human brain Part 2, we want our connective cells to be tight to ensure that it could be solid, resistant, and also much less vulnerable to injury.


In circling around back to the overarching question of this write-up: no, reinforcing your tight/short hamstrings (or any type of various other muscle mass) will not make them tighter/shorter. It will make the connective cells of your hamstrings stronger and also less prone to injury. This is particularly pertinent for yogis, offered the high incidence of hamstring pulls as well as pressures we experience in the yoga neighborhood as a result of the standard sequencing of lots of hamstring stretching and also little strengthening. With this brand-new knowledge concerning muscle mass physiology in mind, we ought to feel encouraged to enhance any sort of area of our physical body we could have formerly been preventing since we were scared it would certainly “tighten up” up as a result. This modification in method will certainly stand for a path towards higher physical body recognition as well as truth equilibrium that a lot of people seek via our time on the yoga exercise mat.