The standing crossed leg hamstring stretch can feel great on the hamstrings, calves, hips, and lower back. The inverted nature of the pose also allows the head to be below the heart which has benefits of its own. It may seem relatively simple, but the benefits go well beyond the physical.
Anytime we can teach you how to do a pose using your own bodyweight, we love to do it. That is because they are so simple to do anywhere - no matter if you are traveling, at work, on vacation, or just getting out of bed. In fact, we especially recommend doing this one first thing in the morning after a poor night of sleep as it can help work out any kinks in your body that may have arisen from a night of tossing and turning.
While this stretch is most definitely one of the simpler ones in our movement database, that does not mean that you should not pay close attention to how you approach and execute it. Keep reading if you want to learn how to properly do this movement. We will also discuss the benefits of doing this stretch daily. Lastly, we will give you modifications if you are not quite ready to go all the way with this movement yet.
In the most simplistic way, the standing crossed leg hamstring stretch looks like you are just touching your toes with your feet crossed. And while this is definitely one point of the movement, there is so much more that happens in this stretch other than just reaching your hands towards your toes. Let’s walk through it all.
Starting from a standing position with your feet hip-width apart, take your right foot and cross it over your left. inhale through your nose and take both arms out in front of you. Enjoy this subtle stretch through your arms and back for a moment.
As you exhale out through your mouth, hinge from the hips diving for your toes. Avoid locking out your knees all the way. Fold your torso over your legs as the top of your head reaches towards the floor. If you can reach your hands all the way to the floor, that’s great. But that is truly not the end goal. The end goal is to receive the deepest stretch for you and your body. if you can’t touch the floor, go until you feel a nice, satisfying stretch in the back body.
Once you have found your proper range of motion, hold here for your desired amount of time. We recommend taking at least five deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.
When you are ready to come out of the pose, push through your feet and come back to the starting position the way you came. Uncross your feet and then cross the left foot over the right. Complete the same movement with the feet crossed in this way.
Feel free to do this pose as many times throughout the day as you need.
Obviously, this is a great stretch for the muscles in the back part of your body. That means the muscles in your lower back, your hamstrings, and your calf muscles all get some love and attention with this variation of the forward fold. But this also might feel really good on your spine as you allow gravity to help decompress you. It creates space between your vertebrae.
Outside of stretching your physical body, this pose is also a good one to use when you are feeling stressed or anxious. Forward folds, such as this variation, have long been used by people to bring a sense of relief and calm as it helps regulate the central nervous system. The narrow foot position in this pose also allows for balance and coordination practice.
If the standing crossed leg hamstring stretch, as it is described above, does not feel accessible to you there are ways to modify it to bring it to your level. The first modification utilizes yoga blocks.
If you don’t have yoga blocks, you can use a step stool, a stack of books, or any other similarly sized item. Instead of reaching your hands to the floor, you will rest your hands on your tool of choice. This can provide a bit of stability and allow you to hold the pose longer if needed.
Another modification would be to grasp opposite elbows as your torso is folded over your legs. This is commonly called the ragdoll pose and is a great variation for beginners or advanced practitioners alike.
This pose can also be done while seated. Cross your legs in a seated position and then fold your torso over your legs. This is a great stretch for the hips, legs, and lower back.
Starting in a standing position, draw one foot over the opposite. Draw the hips back and start to reach down with a flat back. At the end range, allow the head to relax and hold.