Hi fellow DYWM yogis!
I have been practicing yoga on and off since 2016, and am recently back to the mat after a long (~7 months) time away. My question is about forward folds-- I have extremely open hips but very tight hamstrings. My knees also hyperextend so I always practice with a microbend to the knees. Even during my longest yoga stretch (June 2016-September 2017), I was never able to get my hamstrings to loosen up very much. I have been practicing 5-7x/week the past 2 months (shoutout to the ongoing beginner program! was the perfect reintro back to the mat), and my heels are closer than ever to the floor (like 1cm, and sometimes they even touch!) in downward dog! BUT this progress has been accompanied by a huge step backwards in my forward folds!!
First, why??? I thought these two would progress in concert, so I’m a bit puzzled. Second, in terms of encouraging my hamstrings to release and loosen more, have you found it better to practice your forward folds with bent knees or straight legs? I’ve heard many different opinions on this, and my head is spinning, so I thought it best to consult the experts! When my legs are straight, I can touch the floor and my shoulders are beneath my hips, but my chest is very far from my thighs. I also feel the stretch exclusively in my hamstrings. If I bend the knees, I first do a “Cow-back” before tilting my pelvis forward and draping my torso over the thighs. This produces an intense stretch from my low back into the glutes/that deep area where your hamstrings connect. The drawbacks, though, are that 1. often I don’t feel as much of a hamstring stretch because 2. to have my torso over my thighs I’m essentially in a very high squat (like a 120-130 degree angle in my legs) which gets difficult to hold after a couple minutes.
Any advice much appreciated, both on longer hold stretches to help release and on which form (bent vs. straight) you’ve found most beneficial in your sun salutations. I’m not looking to push it, but this has now been the most consistent challenge in my practice and I’d love some advice on how to work through/explore it.