Before I begin, I cannot take credit for these exercises. They are from a wonderful Yoga Journal article by Roger Cole you can find here. I figured I would share them here partly to help solidify the practices in my own mind and partly in case anyone just really loves my writing style :) In any case, these are exercises Roger Cole suggests for healing upper hamstring tendon injuries. He splits the recovery time into three parts; the initial 72 hours after the injury occured, the next 6 weeks, and then the next year-ish. Yeah, remember that patience thing?
First 72 hours- Rest! Try to not aggravate the area as much as possible. This isn’t something you can just stretch out. In fact, that can simply make the injury worse. Cole also recommends applying ice whenever you can and wrapping or binding the area (just below the sitting bone). As a teacher, this can be especially challenging but I think it can also be a great lesson to your students in how to take care of yourself.
The next six weeks - Some modified asana practices are introduced to help align the regrowing (is that a word?) muscles. The body is such an amazing organism and there will be cells marching into place, building themselves into a healed tendon. It is so important to be nice to these cells and this process! Easy does it and the more subtlety you use in these exercises, especially in the beginning, the better. You can also wrap a strap around the area while you do these to create even more alignment. You can also ice the area after the practice.
Modified Salabhasana (Locust Pose)- Lie on your stomach with your limbs relaxed on the floor. To maintain proper alignment in the legs, make sure the knees are pointed straight to the ground so there is no rotation in the hips or knees. In full Locust, you would contract the hamstrings and muscles in the back to lift the legs evenly off the floor. In this healing version, you very gently contract the muscles as if you were to lift the legs but you don’t. Again, the softer the contraction, the better. You want to feel just a slight lightness in the legs. As the weeks progress, slowly add a little more effort into the contraction so, after a few weeks, your legs slightly lift and, after the full six weeks, your legs lift a few inches.
Modified Dhanurasana prep (Bow Pose prep) - For this exercise you need a bolster (or something similar, pillow, folded blanket, but something with a bit of height and support). Lie on your stomach with your ankles resting on the bolster. Gently contract the muscles as if you were going to deepen the bend of the knees and lift the legs off the bolster but, you guessed it, don’t! Again, subtlety is key (hey I rhymed!). After a couple weeks of gently adding in more strength, begin to slightly lift the legs off the bolster. Hold the legs there for 30 seconds, increase the bend in the knees to 90 degrees, and then slowly lower the legs back down. As the weeks pass, you can gradually lower the prop for the ankles. After six weeks, this can be practiced without the prop altogether.
Modified Supta Padanghustasana (Reclined Big Toe Pose) - For this asana, have a block handy. Lying on your back, place the block under the heel of the injured leg. Again, very gently, press the heel into the block. As the weeks pass, gradually increase the press and heighten the prop (though do not go past 45 degrees and decrease the height if you feel a stretch in the hamstring). The article says to hold for the 30 seconds and repeat three times. I would definitely feel it out and listen to your body but it may be a good idea to keep that repetition as your max.
For the next year-lifetime. These postures bring more strengthening to the hamstrings with the same focus on alignment as in the above practices. The asanas are practiced with more challenge to the body and it’s important here, as in all yoga practice, to listen to your body and not over-do it. It’s easy to re-injure yourself and we don’t want to erase all the patient healing we’ve been doing for the past month and a half! So with these, listen to your body, follow your breath, and practice with great awareness.
Salabhasana/Navasana (Locust/Boat Pose) - Picking up where we left off in Locust Pose, we are now contracting the legs with greater strength and lifting the legs higher off of the floor. Keep the awareness and breath in the hamstrings, holding the posture for a comfortable time and slowly lowering to the floor. Repeat if it feels alright! After is starts to feel better and better, you can come into Boat (Full Locust in some schools) by lifting the upper body off of the floor with the legs.
Supta Padanghustasana (Reclined Big Toe Pose) - Again, picking up where we left off, continue to heighten the prop until you reach a 90 degree lift. Once this is comfortable, begin to go past the 90 degrees, using a strap around the foot. With all the various heights, remember to keep pressing the leg away from the body, creating the strengthening resistance.
Purvottanasana (Reverse Plank Pose) - Starting in Dandhasana, or Staff Pose, sit up with the legs extended in front of you and the spine tall. Place the palms about six inches being the hips, fingers towards the body if that’s comfortable (play with this placement if you feel any pain in the wrists). Taking a deep breath in, press into the hands and heels and lift the hips, belly, and chest towards the ceiling. Engage the low belly by adding a slight scoop and draw energy up the legs. Find where the neck can relax. Breath fully and when you’re ready, slowly lower back to the floor. No kerplunking people!
I hope this is helpful and definitely check out the article! He goes into greater detail about the anatomy and such. Happy healing!