September 10, 2017

Elephant walk: best lower back and hamstring stretch


Today's video shows one of the best prep. exercises to loosen the hamstrings (and lower back). This is an every-day exercise (or limbering) for me. We distinguish between "stretching" (where new range of movement is momentarily gained during a practise session) and "limbering", often called mobility, where yesterday's range of movement is regained. Limbering can be done every day; stretching, done the way we recommend, and because it is more intense, can leave the body feeling a bit stiff and sore, and there is no point stretching sore muscles—limber instead!

This is a deceptively simple, and very effective, lower back and hamstring stretch that can be dome anywhere and any time.

Read transcription


Liv and I are at The Factory, a wonderful facility here in London, and we've decided to record the elephant walk because we realised that in amongst all the other videos that we have, this is one that we don't have. So I'm going to turn and face away from you, and show you what this absolutely sensational hamstring stretching exercise is. And also this is a perfect warm-up for any of the more advanced moves, but by itself, it is a fantastic stretch. So I'll just turn away from you.


What I'm going to do is I lean forward and I put my hands on my knees like this, that's just to support myself, and if you have any kind of back problems or anything like that, that can also make the whole thing feel much more secure. Then I'm going to lower myself further and further until, and notice that my knees are well bent here, until at some point I feel my tummy and my ribs making contact with the thigh. The elephant walk is simplicity in itself. I should also add, if you're not quite as far over and you can't reach the floor with your fingertips, by all means use a couple of blocks, yoga blocks or the like to lean on if you're up here somewhere, because the essence of the feeling of security in this pose comes from being able to lean on something, even if it's only a partial lean.


So I'm leaning on my fingertips and then I let my head and neck go completely soft like this, and then here is the elephant walk. While keeping everything in contact with one thigh or both, watch, I slowly start to straighten the left leg, and as soon as I feel a stretch in this leg here, I let it go. Then I slowly start to straighten the right leg and I let it go. Don't do this. Don't just straighten the leg like this and let the leg come away from the body, because you won't get the full relaxation effect if you do. So I'll just repeat this a few times. So straighten, feel, relax. Straighten, feel the hamstring, relax. Straighten, relax.


Now notice that I'm getting the leg a little bit straighter each time, and if you notice on this camera that's behind me, this is where the idea of the elephant walk comes from, the hips move from side to side. And notice the direction was, *try* to straighten the left leg and *try* to straighten the right leg. Today I'm pretty stiff so I'm not actually able to straighten the leg while holding my body in contact with the thigh, and that's perfect. But in time you will be able to. And I can feel myself loosening, in fact, as I'm doing this. So I'm going to change my hand position a little, and this makes it a stronger version. I'm holding my heels now, and still holding my body in contact with my thighs as I try to straighten the legs. That's one part of it. Another part is you can try gently to pull yourself forward as well, let everything goes soft, and once again, leg straightening actions like this. And eventually, eventually the legs will be straight.


To come out of the pose, we normally take a breath in, breathe out, take another breath in, hold the breath in, stand up. And the reason for doing that is if you hold your breath in while you stand up, you won't feel faint after doing the exercise, and in any exercise where the head is underneath the heart, and you're working there for a minute or two as I was, for some people when you stand up after doing that, the blood pressure goes down in the brain and you feel momentarily faint. But if you take a deep breath in and hold that breath in, that won't happen to you. Anyway, give this a try. It's called the elephant walk.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}