Elephant Stretch = Pilates Hamstring Stretch

The elephant stretch appears to be a very simple forward bend while the legs remain at a straight 90 degree angle.

This position allows for the stretching of the hamstrings to occur as well as the release of tension in the lower back. In this photo I am standing on the carriage of the Pilates Reformer and have my hands on the reformer foot bar to secure my balance during the bend and stretch.

The Steps to Success

–In order to bend forward effectively make sure to first draw in the breath and then lift your rib cage upwards so that you can elongate and create space at your waistline. From that elongated waistline position you can fold forward and have your spine end up in a long straight and flat pose.

–If you are extremely tight in your lower back or hamstrings you may find it difficult to get in that straight spine position. Most people will round their spine slightly in order to avoid the tension and discomfort of extremely tight hamstrings.

–Once you are in the forward bend try to exhale fully and emphasize relaxing and releasing tension as you straighten the spine and settle into the stretch.

–You can then tip the top of your pelvis forward and accentuate the raising of the sits bones in back of your pelvis. This tipping forward of the top of the pelvis can give another half inch of length to the hamstrings in the back of your legs where they attach to the base of the pelvis.

Most people marvel that there was so much extra length available for them to find. Getting good at finding that extra length in the hamstrings will help you to relieve the pain and tension and discover new capacity in pain-free movement over time. We have many elephants learning how to stretch at my studio in Sebastopol. So much fun.