Updated: Jan 16
There are a few iconic yoga poses that everyone wants to learn, and one of these poses is the splits—also known as Hanumanasana (Monkey Pose).
In this blog we’ll be exploring three practical steps to learn how to do the splits.
(1) Understand the alignment and technique of the splits
It might not surprise you to learn that the splits require a lot of flexibility in your hamstrings. A focus on forward bending and learning how to lengthen your hamstrings without over-stretching is therefore useful to practice and understand.
But what makes the splits challenging isn’t just the need for long hamstrings. The pose also requires opening and length in your hip flexors.
The splits are an uneven pose, with both legs doing different actions at the same time. The front leg lengthening forward feels the stretch in the hamstrings, while it’s the hip flexor in the back leg that is getting stretched.
In addition to the flexibility, it’s supportive and beneficial to find some engagement and strength while in the pose. So, in addition to having flexible hamstrings and hip flexors, you want to also keep your hamstrings and hip flexors engaged.
By learning how to engage your quadriceps in the front of your thighs it will help relieve some of the stretching tension from your hamstrings and hip flexors.
In the end, as with all yoga poses, we want to actively stretch so that we cultivate strength and flexibility together.
(2) Take time to warm the body up with preparation poses
When you’re learning how to do the splits it’s recommended to take some time practicing preparation yoga poses before you attempt this peak pose.
Like all advanced poses, warming up and preparing the body for the pose is really key to ensure that you avoid injury.
First take the time to warm up the body with dynamic movements like sun salutations. Then work with a specially designed yoga sequence that focuses on forward bending and hip openers.
These targeted preparation poses should work on engaging and lengthening your hamstrings, hip flexors and quadriceps—precisely the areas you will need to use for the splits.
Depending on where you are with your yoga practice, you might choose for a period of time to work only on preparation poses like Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), Utkatasana (Chair Pose), Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge) and Ardha Hanumanasana (Half Splits).
This will allow you to first focus on getting your body comfortable in yoga poses that engage and lengthen your hamstrings, hip flexors and quadriceps required for the splits.
Once you feel ready to approach the splits take your time to approach the pose slowly. A great first step is to practice Ardha Hanumanasana (Half Splits).
This allows you to slowly move into the pose, and after some time you can play with bringing your front leg a little more forward and back leg a little more back. Then as you start to feel more familiar with these actions you can start to slowly work your way towards the splits.
Below you can find a yoga sequence created by Irene that guides your through a series of ten yoga poses building up towards the splits.
(3) Practice consistently for the best results
As with most things in life, consistency is key!
The more often you practice, the more comfortable your body will get in both the preparation poses and the splits themselves.
It can be very helpful to focus on practicing regularly the family of yoga poses of forward bends and hip openers that support lengthening and engaging your hamstrings, hip flexors and quadriceps.
When approaching the preparations and peak pose work with your breath as a guide, as well as the sensations and feedback that you get in your body.
This will help you to determine when it’s the right moment for you to transition from the half splits to full splits, and how far to go into your splits. Tune into how your body feels before, during and after practice for more direct feedback.
Remember to have fun in your journey of learning the splits, and keep practicing consistently to see best results!
Good luck and happy practicing!
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