After many requests, Im sharing with you 5 postures that can help you explore Hanumanasana, also known as the Splits! It's very important to acknowledge and accept where we are within our yoga journey, it's not about boosting the ego but I do agree it's always fun to explore those advanced poses with curiosity and a playful heart!!
I WILL say use props like blocks, bolsters and pillows, don't think that by using them you're not good enough, by using them you build that connection, mindfulness and patience which is what Yoga is all about. I wouldn't recommend giving yourself a deadline to achieve splits (or any other posture for that matter), you will notice that if you have a well rounded practice you don't necessarily have to practice specific poses. Splits is a journey through trust and humility, take your time, settle in and enjoy the journey!
I cannot stress enough when moving towards advanced or 'peak' postures that you are thoroughly warmed through, and I don't mean running on the spot for 30 seconds! Move through a practice that increases your heart rate, mobilise every joint, explore balancing postures and slow transitions, every posture we work through within our practice is a balance of strength and flexibility. When you are moving through your practice focus on postures that engage the legs, that test your balance and warm the whole pelvis. Think of all ranges of movements not just forward and back, side to side, circling and spiralling movements can feel delicious!!
Before we move into Hanumanasana it's really important we have a little knowledge of our personal alignment and anatomy. We will have our individual strengths and weaknesses and we need to be honest when moving our body into postures that are a little more challenging.
Here is a little breakdown of the muscles that stretch & contract when moving into the splits.
When we think of the splits we think about the length of the legs, it's true we need A LOT of flexibility within the legs but this range of movement comes from deep from the hips, we need to honour our strengths and weaknesses here in order to make progress.
+ When the leg is extended in front the hamstrings, calf and glutes stretch. The hip flexors and quadriceps engage.
+ When the leg is extended behind the hip flexors and quadriceps stretch. the glutes and lower back engage.
The inner and outer thighs play a role with stabilising the rotation of the full leg:
+ If you have dominant external rotation the inner thighs may be weak/flexible and the outer thighs strong/tight.
+ If you have dominant internal rotation the inner thighs may be strong/tight and the outer thighs may be weak/flexible.
Can you now see how complex just moving one part of the body can be?!
These next few postures I want you to explore at your own pace, honour and respect your body and all the sensations it creates, remember we can all make use of props to make a posture more accessible. If you need to modify or adapt to your personal needs please do and remember to not get fixated on pushing yourself there, by pushing you will create more tension and stress within the body which will actually make it tighter! Surrender into the practice of patience and presence, yoga is a work in, not a work out!
Seated Single Leg Forward Fold - Janu Sirsasana
Starting in a comfortable seating position with both legs extended in front of you.
Gently bend the right knee up towards the chest (close the knee joint) and allow the right knee to fall out to the right hands side. Remember we always have the option in supporting under the knee and thigh, this will allow the hip to open if it feels reassurance from something underneath it.
Take an inhale and lengthen through the waist, exhale and draw the belly in.
Flex the left foot and rotate the upper body to face the length of the left leg. Heart towards the left knee.
Inhale extend through the waist and as you exhale hinge from the hips continuing to reach the heart forwards.
Allow the hands to settle to the floor, onto the legs or by the sides. The main focus here is lengthening through the back body rather than pulling yourself lower.
Soften into the pose elongating the neck, relaxing the face and noticing the breath.
Stay here for 5-10 long deep breaths and repeat the other side!
Seated Forward Fold - Paschimottanasana
Starting in a comfortable seating position with both legs extended in front of you with the feet flexed.
Inhale and lengthen the spine, maintaining the length within the waist.
Resting the hands on the floor beside you or on the thighs lead with the heart.
On the next exhalation draw the core in, flex the feet and fold forwards from the hips #2 (not the waist #3)
Every breath in encourage the spine to lengthen a little more, even if this means you lift slightly out of the posture.
Exhale to sink deeper, this is a posture not to be rushed! Relax your shoulders, soften your forearms and breathe!
Low Lunge - Anjaneyasana
From a standing position gently bend the knees to bring the hands to the floor.
Step back with the left foot bringing the left knee to the floor.
Align the right ankle with the right knee and allow the sole of the foot to be flat and supportive.
The hands can rest on the floor, on blocks or even on the left thigh.
Inhale to extend through the waist and reach the heart forwards and up away from the pelvis.
Be mindful not to flare the lower ribs but instead hug them in maintaining harmony within the lower back and spine.
Sinking the hips down you will stretch the left thigh, right hip and feel a very big release!
If you would like to explore deeper we can slowly move the right foot towards towards the right edge of the mat,bending the left knee reach behind and grab the right foot or ankle with the right hand. If this feels to much do not force yourself to stay there! This adjustment can make a very incredible difference in intensity!
Find a variation and layer that suits, remember to softly engage to core and think about lifting the ribcage up and out of the pelvis, rather than sinking the weight of the body down into the hips.
Breathe and enjoy.
Reclined Pigeon Posture - Supta Kapotasana
Lying on your back relax the spine towards the floor. Bend both knees and rest the feet on the mat hip distance apart.
Hug the right knee into the chest and soften the belly, guide the right ankle over the left knee towards the lower thigh.
This may be enough to release the outer right hip and glute, you can elevate the left foot on a block or pillow.
If you feel happy to move deep thread both hands through the left thigh and interlace the fingers, this will lift the left foot off the floor and stretch deeper into the hips.
Relax the lower back to the floor and avoid lifting the head or rounding up to get deeper. (You'll take the edge out of where we need to stretch and just strain your neck!)
Super amazing variation which I actually prefer is placing the foot on the wall that would be 'hovering' you can then relax the arms and hands, there is no holding the pose and you will be able to stay here longer!
10-20 long breaths or 1-2 minutes for the wall variation.
Repeat the other side!
Half Split/Monkey Pose - Ardha Hanumanasana
We can transition into a half monkey posture from a low lunge posture (above) we simple lean back and straighten through the bent knee.
Follow the steps for your low lunge posture above, as we lean the pelvis backwards the front leg begins to straighten.
Ensure the hands move closer towards the hips as this will being height back into the pose. Using props under the hands can be amazing in this pose, despite how deep you can go.
Inhale to lengthen the spine and heart forwards, exhale to peel the toes of the front foot away from the floor.
The pelvis is stacked over the back leg thigh and knee and we want to try and aim the hips square to the front edge of the mat.
Take your time to become used to the sensations here, 5-10 long deep breaths each side.
Child's Pose - Balasana
Starting in a table top position guide the knees to the outer edges of the mat. Big toes touch.
Inhale and lengthen through the belly, exhale to gently press the pelvis and bum back and down to the heels.
Allow gravity to do the work, relax the weight of the upper body towards the floor.
Extending the arms forward relax the forehead towards the floor, if this feels to much support the head with a block or pillow.
Don't forget the amazing Yin variation with pillows under the chest and belly!
10-20 breaths or 5 minutes.
Supported Hero Pose - Virasana
We move into this pose from a kneeling position guiding the knees hip distance and the feet a little wider.
Support under the pelvis and bum for this one, the more elevation the deeper we can go into the hip and thighs!
From your kneeling position bend the left knee up towards the ceiling and place the foot to the floor.
Once we have found a happy foundation lean back into the hands and tuck the tailbone under.
You're reaching the tailbone towards the front edge of the mat, pressing the right knee down and squeeze your bum a little.
Look forwards, lengthen the heart and waist and breathe!
You can explore this posture by stretching into both legs at the same time but I prefer moving into each leg individually, it gives you chance to breathe and also acknowledge any imbalances.
BREATHE and find a layer you're happy to maintain, why not try this as a Yin posture?
Full Splits - Hanumanasana
Once the body is warm and ready to explore the full variation of Hanumanasana grab a bolster or a few firm pillows!
We start the posture from Half Monkey pose (makes sense) and we place the props underneath us for the pelvis to eventually sit on.
Extending through the front leg flex the foot and wiggle the heel forward's, don't forget to maintain the length within the spine!
Settle your hands on the bolster, pillows or blocks and think about rolling the inner thighs in so the feet don't fall outwards.
Softening through the shoulders let the arms support the weight of the body and take your time to explore your depth.
If you feel you can move deeper, settle onto the props (remember you can add more!)
Both hips are square to the front edge of the mat to maintain the equanimity within the hips and all the muscle groups that are working. (Remember the list above!)
Take a closer look at #4 I have purposely changed the alignment and want you to tell me what's going on, is this alignment correct or incorrect? What would I need to do to adjust the alignment so it's more suitable for my body? What muscles are tight and which muscles are dominant?
Well there we have it! 7 postures that will help you gain a little more knowledge and flexibility towards Hanumanasana, I hope you find this useful and don't hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions. I would also LOVE to hear your feedback and answers (for the final posture alignment question) in the comments. Get logged in and lets get connected!
All my love,