I think a lot of people consider splits to be the ultimate flexibility pose in yoga. And to some extent, I suppose that is true. The split is a pose that requires flexibility and openness in pretty much every muscle and joint in your lower body. Today, we’re looking at 5 beginner yoga poses to prep for splits.
Two things to remember in your yoga journey are 1. Not every body type can do every pose and 2. Patience is important. The split is such a complex pose. And if you’re working your way towards it, you have to be really patient with your body. I’ve heard people say it has taken them anywhere from 6 months to 4 years to sit comfortably in the splits. In addition, it is not a pose that should be practiced without warming up. These yoga poses to prep for splits are good for warming up your lower body.
A good majority of people often think of only the hamstrings as needing to be opened in order to get into the split. This is wrong. Split pose involves your hamstring, quadriceps, and hip joints. As a matter of fact, you’ll find that going all the way down into split pose is nearly impossible if you have pretty flexible hamstrings but tight quads.
Working on the various muscles that are involved in the split is key to getting comfortably into the pose. Something important to note, even if you’re not working towards the split, these poses are great for opening up leg muscles that get neglected when we spend a majority of our time sitting down. So you may not be trying to get into hanumanasana, but these poses are still great for your body!
Fun fact: Did you know that Split pose is actually called Full Monkey (Hanumanasana in Sanskrit) in the yoga world? Click here if you’re interested in the full myth behind this story. Alright, let’s take a look at our prep poses!
5 Beginner Yoga Poses to Prep for Splits
Seated Forward Fold | Paschimottanasana
How To: Begin in a seated position with your legs stretched out in front of you. On an inhale, reach your arms strongly up towards the ceiling, to lengthen your spine. On an exhale, hinge forward at your hips, slide the middle and index finger of both hands on the inside of your big toes and grab your big toes.
On another inhale, lengthen your spine and create a flat back, then slowly draw your chest towards your legs on your exhale. Once you’ve reached as far as is comfortable, let your head hang, but do no strain your head towards the legs. All reaching should be done from the chest.
To come out, inhale your upper body up with your arms reaching up towards the ceiling. Exhale and drop your hands to return to sitting. Hold for 3 to 5 slow breaths
Benefits: Stretches the hamstrings and lower back muscles.
Half Monkey Pose | Ardha Hanumanasana
How To: Begin in tabletop pose. On an exhale, extend your left leg out in front of you while keeping your palms on your mat. Lift your left foot until the sole of your foot is on the floor ad your left toes are activated up and back towards your body. Inhale and lengthen your lower back by drawing your heart forward towards your toes, and fixing your gaze on your toes.
As you exhale, hinge at your hips and lower your upper body towards your left leg while resting both palms on the floor. Once you feel a deep stretch in that hamstring, relax your neck and head. Do not reach your forehead towards the leg if your upper body isn’t in contact with that straightened leg. Dropping your head is mainly a way to relax your neck, not to bring your upper body closer to the leg. Remember to keep your belly drawing strongly in towards your spine. This helps protect the lower back also.
To come out of this pose, lift your upper body on an inhale and return to tabletop pose. Hold for 5 to 7 slow breaths and remember to practice on the other side.
Benefits: Calms and relaxes the mind; stretches your lower back, hips, knees and ankles.
Reclined Hand to Toe | Supta Padangusthasana
How To: While laying on your back, pull your left knee in towards your chest. Sliding your left arm on the inside of your leg, grab your big toe with your left index and middle finger. On an inhale, lift and straighten your leg reaching your heel towards the ceiling to ensure that your leg stays engaged.
Your right leg (the leg on the mat) should be engaged also. Do this by pulling the toes on that leg away from your upper body. As you relax into the pose, slowly pull your left leg closer to your body while bending that left arm and reaching the heel, strongly, towards the ceiling.
To come out of this pose, bend your elevated knee on an exhale, slowly release your big toe and then lower your leg. Hold for 3 to 5 slow breaths and remember to practice on the other side.
Benefits: Stretches the hamstrings and lower back.
Kneeling Quad Stretch
How To: From a low lunge position, on an exhale, place your right palm down next to the inside of your left foot. Push the floor strongly away from you, and don’t dump into your right shoulder. Bend your right leg at the knee, and reach back to grab your right foot with your left arm while rotating your torso to the left.
Ensure that your belly stays drawing in and that your left thumb is pointing straight up at the ceiling, to protect your shoulder. Gently draw your right foot in towards your glutes. As your quad begins to relax in this pose, slowly lower your hips closer to the mat.
To come out, slowly release your foot from your hand and return to low lunge pose. Hold for 3 to 5 slow breaths and remember to practice on the other side.
Benefits: Deeply stretches the quadriceps. Gently stretches the knees, hip, abdomen, and shoulders.
Low Lunge Pose | Anjaneyasana
How To: Starting in downward dog, step your left foot forward between your hands and lower the right knee to the ground. Ensure that your left knee is stacked right above your left ankle. On an inhale, lift your torso up and extend your arms up towards the ceiling, palms facing one another. Relax your shoulders down your back and away from your ears.
Tuck your tailbone under slightly to prevent pressure in your lower back. Suck your belly in towards your spine to engage your core. Slowly allow your hips to sink down towards the mat/floor. If you focus on pulling your bent foot and the knee on the floor towards one another, without actually moving them, this helps your hips sink lower. As your hips begin to sink lower, your bent knee will begin to shift over your knee. This is acceptable only in low lunge pose because that knee is not bearing any weight.
To come out, exhale and lower your palms to the floor. Hold for 3 to 5 slow breaths and remember to practice on the other side.
Benefits: Stretches hips and thighs. Strengthens shoulders, upper back and core.
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