Photo of Maggie Anderson & Don Anderson on Djembe taken by Maggie Anderson
Splits pose is also named Monkey Pose, named after figure in Hindu mythology who takes a leap of faith. Take that leap of faith and begin practicing this satisfying pose. Allow your body to be where it is in this pose and over time with a dedicated practice your body will grow more flexible and deepen.
In this pose the legs are split forward and back, mimicking Hanuman’s famous leap from the southern tip of India to the island of Sri Lanka. Have blocks or blankets nearby when practice this pose (preferably not on a sticky mat). The blankets can rest under the back knee and front heel. The block or blocks can go under your hip till you are able to float all the way down to the floor.
This pose is great for stretching the hamstrings, opening the hips and also wonderful as a therapeutic application if you are dealing with Sciatica issues.
Directions on how to come into the pose:
Begin by coming into Half Splits with your right foot forward. Lean your torso forward, keep your spine straight, pressing your fingertips to the floor. Slowly scooch your front right foot forward as you gently slide the left knee back, straightening the knee and at the same time descending the right thigh toward the floor. Stop straightening the back knee just before you reach the limit of your stretch.
Now begin to push the right heel away from your torso. As the front leg straightens, resume pressing the left knee back, and carefully descend the front of the left thigh and the back of the right leg (and the base of the pelvis) to the floor. Make sure the center of the right knee points directly up toward the ceiling. Have a block nearby to place under your hips if you’ve reached your edge and are unable to touch your hips to the floor. Place a blanket under the back knee if you have knee issues.
Check to see that the back leg extends straight out of the hip (and isn’t angled out to the side), and that the center of the back kneecap is pressing directly on the floor (or blanket). Keep the front leg active by extending through the heel and lifting the ball of the foot toward the ceiling. Bring the hands into Anjali Mudra (Salutation Seal) or stretch the arms straight up toward the ceiling.
Stay in this pose for 30 seconds to a minute. To come out, press your hands to the floor, turn the front leg out slightly, and slowly return the front heel and the back knee to their starting positions. Come to Child’s Pose to rest and then reverse the legs and repeat for the same length of time.
To Deepen the Pose: Raise the arms overhead from the “trigger” of the lower back ribs. Take the back ribs away from the top of the pelvis, and use this lift to reach the arms closer to the ceiling. Lengthen along the backs of the arms, stretching your pinkies a little closer to the ceiling than the index fingers. Then pin the fingertips against the ceiling and release or “hang” the ribs from the arms. Work with the ribs between the arms and the pelvis: relative to the pelvis, the ribs lift, boosting the arms closer to the ceiling; relative to the arms, the ribs drop toward the floor, increasing the stretch in the armpits.
You may also then attempt to fold forward, with a straight spine, perhaps holding onto the toes. Inhaling extending the spine and exhaling folding deeper.
When not to do this pose or to modify/Contraindications:
Any groin or hamstring injuries. Students just beginning to learn this pose are often unable to get the legs and pelvis down on the floor, which is usually due to of tightness in the backs of the legs or front groins. While in the starting leg position place a block or thick bolster below the pelvis (with its long axis parallel to your inner legs). As you straighten the legs, slowly release your pelvis down onto the bolster. If the block or bolster isn’t thick enough to comfortably support your pelvis, add a thickly folded blanket.
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