The photographs below shows two phases of moving into a Pilates Reformer move called “The Jackknife”. This is a wonderful exercise that is considered a “Counter stretch” for tight hamstrings as well as tightness in the lower back that increases flexibility. It is generally used after you have performed a straight legged forward bend and other more basic hamstring stretches.

Moving into position for the “Jackknife” stretching hamstrings

How to “Jackknife”

–It is done by lying flat on your back on the Pilates Reformer. You can first press your arms into the flat carriage of the reformer and use the abdominal muscles to lift your legs and torso straight up towards the ceiling (almost like a shoulder stand).

–Once you have lifted them upwards let the legs gracefully fold back over your torso and head until they land parallel to the floor. At this point emphasize straightening the legs and pointing the toes as this will help the stretch of the hamstrings that this move provides.

Legs are parallel with the floor, stretching the hamstrings.

–Let yourself stay in this position in order to let the curve of the lower back release tightness and congestion. Keep emphasizing the straightening of your legs in order to get the maximum release out of the hamstrings. If the tight hamstrings are painful let the legs move gently in a “flutter kick” which still activates the stretch but relieves the pain. Here in Sebastopol we practice alternatives that don’t necessitate painful practices.