That Time I Popped My Hamstring

hamstring stretchHamstring injuries blow. And as witnessed by the story below they can take an awful long time to heal.

Thirty four years of life passed without my suffering any sort of major injury. There were no broken bones and many turned ankles that never actually sprained. I even got hit by a car while riding my bike and emerged unscathed.

Then I started doing yoga. Not that I am blaming yoga—I bear full responsibility for the results of my actions. It is just that yoga was the first time I really used and pushed my body towards any limits. Rollerblading was my major activity before yoga and as long as you don’t fall there aren’t many paths to injury.

My yoga injuries started with my knees which I have documented repeatedly on the blog so I figured to skip those creaky joints and share the story of a muscle (the hamstring) that took a wrong turn.

My life in yoga began with the ashtanga practice which is fun, rigorous and, at least at that time, not particularly focused on alignment. My joints tend to be very loose and my muscles follow a similar pattern so in many ways I was born to do ashtanga. I only wished that someone had told me to stop hyperextending my knees.

After my knee issues resolved, which took a number of years, I was back in ashtanga. One of the hallmarks of the ashtanga practice is the super deep assists you receive from the teachers in the room. For me, getting assists was always about breathing with and through them, which led to some spectacular openings.

One of my favorite poses was supta padangusthasana, one version of which has the body basically doing a split on the back keeling one leg straight out from the pelvis and the other trying to touch the floor behind your head.

What a pose. When the muscles and joints play along, both feet end up on the floor with a full extension of the required muscles.

Very often in this pose, the teacher would give an assist to the hamstring, holding both legs and separating them further.

This assist and I were on intimate terms—I loved it. And then one day, in a fit of pique, my left hamstring got pissed and left the bone upon which it was anchored. The resulting explosion at the base of my pelvis was heard by everyone on the room.

The teacher was more upset than I, but my hamstring was done for the day, and, get ready, here it comes… it took five years to heal. The story of that long healing journey will follow shortly.


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