Loosening up your hamstrings doesn't take as much work as getting a new pair of leather shoes to feel like you've been wearing them forever, but it does take consistency. Hamstrings have a comfort zone and are likely to snap back into place if pulled too enthusiastically only once in a blue moon. Perform loosening exercises on a regular basis to get the length and strength you need to have a perfectly fitting set of hamstrings.
Lie on your back on a yoga or exercise mat with a yoga strap on the floor by your side. Curve your tailbone upward to get length in your back. Lift your left leg into the air until it is perpendicular to the floor. Loop the yoga strap around the bottom of your left foot and hold on to each end of the strap with each hand. Inch your fingers up the strap, but stop if you feel your shoulders lifting off the mat. Using the strap, slowly pull your left foot toward your head. Stop before the point of pain. Hold this position for up to a minute, then lower your left leg and repeat on the other side.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Fold forward with a straight back, hinging from your hips, until your torso is parallel with the floor. Stay in this position for about 30 seconds just to get used to the pull being exerted on your hamstrings. Keep your back straight and look forward. After 30 seconds, fold forward the rest of the way and place your hands on your shins. Stay in this position for up to 30 seconds and then rise up with a flat back to your original standing position. Over time, as you feel your hamstrings loosen, you can increase the amount of time you spend in this forward bending exercise and change the placement of your hands by moving them down your shins and eventually to the floor.
Stand with your feet together for a lunge sequence that loosens and strengthens your hamstrings. Overly-loose hamstrings can get you into as much trouble as too-tight strings, so use this all-in-one exercise to take care of both needs. Crouch down and place your hands on the floor beside your feet. Step your left foot back until your left leg is straight. Move both hands to the inside of your right knee. Take three breaths and then lower your left knee to the floor. Take three breaths and then move your right hand to the outside of your right foot as you move your hips back toward your left foot and straighten your right, forward leg. Take three breaths and then push down into the floor to straighten your back, left leg as you lift your hips toward the ceiling. Breathe three times and then reverse the process by completing all steps as you move back to your starting position. Repeat the entire maneuver on the other side.
Linda Kaban is a certified yoga teacher and professional life coach who specializes in helping people achieve their fitness goals. With a bachelor's degree in the humanities, Kaban has been writing since 1998 and has been published in YOGALife magazine along with other healthy living publications.