Monkey pose, Hanumanasana, (hah-new-mahn-AHS-anna)
prasarita (a Hindu God) + asana (pose)
Also Known as: Splits Pose
Channel the devotion and courage of a Hindu god who gave this pose its name, and deepen your hip and leg flexibility.
Monkey Pose Fundamentals
Explore your limits and play on the mat in Monkey Pose. This asana is a deep leg and hip stretch and is a wonderful addition to your practice if you feel like conquering new challenges.
This pose can seem effortless for some while others struggle even after years of yoga practice. A lot of it will depend on your anatomy, so don’t feel bad if you struggle to reach the full expression of the pose – that’s true for most of us. You will still reap the benefits of this intense stretch regardless of how deep you’re able to go.
The main difference between Hanumasana and the splits is hip alignment. In gymnastics, splits are done with open hips, which allows you to go deeper. Meanwhile, Monkey Pose is done with closed hips, which means they remain in the same line.
The Sanskrit name Hanumasana comes from a monkey-like Hindu God, who had to take a huge leap across the sea to reach Sita out of his loyalty to her husband, Lord Rama. He saved her from her captivity on the island of Sri Lanka, and the Monkey Pose symbolizes the giant step he took to achieve that.When going into the pose, we can contemplate our own powers and the courage to attempt things that may seem too difficult or even impossible for us. We can also consider our devotion towards yoga gurus and teachers, which can help us develop the virtues of trust and loyalty.
Monkey pose & Energetics
Energetically, the pose stimulates the first two chakras – Root and Sacral.
In this way, it can help us work on gaining a sense of stability, security, and self-acceptance and encourage us to build healthier relationships with ourselves and others.
Monkey Pose Benefits
- Stretches and lengthens the leg muscles, particularly the inner groin and hamstrings.
- Builds stability in the hips and engages and tones the core.
- Improves blood circulation in the legs, which may help improve the health of leg muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints.
- Since we need to consciously approach it to protect ourselves from injury, this pose may teach us to improve body awareness, listen to our bodies, and have patience with ourselves.
- Builds self-discipline, which is one of the key yogic values one should master, not only to reach a single pose but also to live a more peaceful life.
How To Do Monkey pose: Step-By-Step
How To Get There:
1. Begin on your hands and knees in Table Top Pose.
2. Step your right foot in between your arms, and step the left foot back for a Low Lunge.
3. Begin sliding your right foot forward until you reach a point where you can’t move deeper. Flex the front foot, pulling the toes towards your body. Keep the back leg extended.
4. Check your hips – they should still be facing forward. You can tuck the toes of the left foot and walk it slightly inwards to ensure your hips are stacked.
5. If your legs are still lifted off the ground, place a block, cushion, or bolster underneath for support.
6. When your legs and hips are supported, you can begin to raise your torso. If you can’t reach the ground with your hands, elevate them with blocks.
7. If you feel stable, you can also lift your hands overhead, or place them on the heart in prayer positions.
8. Deep stretches like the Monkey Pose are most effective when held for at least 30 seconds, which equals around 5 deep breaths. Count your breaths and hold for up to 10.
9. When you’re ready, slowly move out of the pose, take a moment to rest in Table Top, then repeat on the other side.
Tips And Tricks:
- Keeping the torso long and upright is crucial – avoid rounding your back just to get a deeper stretch.
- Pressing the back foot into the floor may help you find that extra length in your back.
- Have props by your side to help support you when practicing the pose – blocks, cushions, blankets, or a bolster may all be useful to you.
- Practicing on a bare floor with your socks on may help you enter the pose more easily, as you will slightly slide on the surface. Still, make your movements slow and controlled.
- Keep the front quad and the core engaged when you are holding the pose.
- Always perform less challenging hip stretches before entering Monkey Pose – perform it near the end of your session as a peak pose.
- Keep your hips closed and facing towards the front. This will make the stretch less deep, but you will also feel a greater opening sensation in your legs and groin.
- Be careful a listen to your body. Going too deep and too fast may only cause pain and injury. Instead of forcing yourself to perform the pose on the first try, be consistent with your practice if you want to reach the full expression of the Monkey Pose.
Monkey Pose Variation:
Monkey Pose Variation: Monkey Pose With Blocks
Blocks will support you when you aren’t able to straighten your legs completely. Place them under both hands to give you a lift, so you can still support your body with a straight spine, even if the back leg isn’t fully extended.
You can also place a block or a folded blanket beneath the hips or the front hamstring to support the leg. Using props in such a way will help you perform the pose accurately, and you’ll also be able to hold it for longer periods of time.
Monkey Pose Variation: Advanced Variation
Once you’ve managed to enter the Monkey Pose, you can level it up by adding a backbend. If you are able to do a backbend comfortably, you can try (slowly and carefully) to enter the advanced variation called Eka Pada Rajakapotasana IV.
For this variation, you will lift your arms overhead, and bend your back knee, turning the bottom of the foot to the ceiling. Open your chest and bring your head back. Bend your elbows in an overhead position, so the hands are behind your head and your elbows are pointing outwards. Grab your back foot with both hands, then release your head back towards the foot.
Monkey Pose Variation: Half Monkey Pose
Half-Monkey Pose is a preparatory position for the full Monkey, and you can always remain in this position if extending your legs fully is too much.
This variation provides virtually all the main benefits of the Full Monkey Pose, the only difference being it is less deep.
Begin in a low lunge, balancing your weight through both legs. Then extend the front leg and flex the foot, while keeping the back knee and shin on the ground. Flex the foot of the straight leg, and when you’re ready, fold your torso over the front leg.
When you’re ready to release, go back to low lunge, move to Downward Facing Dog, then repeat the same on the other side.
Precautions & Contraindications:
Hips Opening. The main difference between Monkey Pose and traditional splits from gymnastics is that Monkey Pose is done in a closed-hip position. Aim to keep both hips in the same line and facing front, instead of opening the back hip to the side.
Practicing While In Pain. Feeling a stretching sensation in this pose is normal, but don’t go so far as to feel a sharp pain in the groin or the hamstrings, because that may harm you. Instead, go back to half splits or modify the pose with props if you feel any pain.
Avoid practicing Monkey Pose if you have an injury in the tailbone, hips, pelvis, ankles, knees, or hamstrings.
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