The splits are a challenging yoga posture requiring both patience and consistent practice. To access this physically advanced yoga pose, it is crucial to use preparatory poses that target the necessary muscle groups while gradually increasing flexibility.
In this article, we will explore the top 7 preparatory yoga poses for the splits to help you on your journey towards this posture or any of its variations.
We also learn a lot more about this yoga asana. We’ll talk about:
- Origins of the splits in yoga: Hanumanasana
- Basic anatomy of the splits
- Benefits of Hanumanasana
- Yoga for the splits: warm-up postures
- Yoga poses for the splits: variations and modifications
- Yoga for the side splits: Samakonasana
- A yoga for the splits practice
Read on with us.
Origins of the Splits in Yoga: Hanumanasana
However, it is important to note that splits, also known as Hanumanasana in yoga, may have appeared in various cultures and disciplines throughout history.
According to mythology, Hanuman was a devoted disciple of Lord Rama and possessed numerous extraordinary abilities, including the power to stretch his body.
Legend says that during his search for Lord Rama’s wife, Hanuman leaped across the ocean to reach the island where she was held captive, and it was during this leap that he performed the splits pose.This story inspired the pose and its association with Hanuman.
Over time, the splits pose became a part of Hatha Yoga practices and was incorporated into yogic postures. The splits pose became a common posture in many yoga disciplines too, including Vinyasa, Ashtanga, and Power Yoga.
Basic anatomy of the splits
Hanumanasana is an asymmetrical yoga posture that requires flexibility, strength, and balance.
Here is the basic anatomy involved in getting into the posture:
- The hamstrings muscles play a crucial role in achieving forward folds and lengthening the legs in splits.
- The iliopsoas, rectus femoris, and sartorius muscles help flex the hips and lift the legs toward the torso.
- The quadriceps muscle group is located on the front of the thighs. These muscles are responsible for extending and straightening the knees. In splits, the quadriceps actively engage to generate stability and support the front leg.
- The gluteal muscles, including the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus, are the primary muscles responsible for hip extension and rotation. In splits, the glute muscles are needed to maintain stability and proper alignment of the hips.
- The core muscles, including the abdominals and lower back muscles, are not directly involved in the splits pose but are necessary for stability and maintaining proper alignment in the posture.
- The ankle and foot muscles come into play for proper foot placement and balance during the splits. Muscles such as the calf muscles and intrinsic muscles of the foot work together to provide support and control while in Hanumanasana.
Consistent practice and gradual progression when practicing monkey pose and other yoga for the splits postures are paramount.
Always warm up properly before attempting the splits and listen to your body’s needs; not all the yoga for splits variations are for everyone, and that’s okay.
Benefits of Hanumanasana
Yoga practitioners have recognized the physical and mental benefits of the splits, as it helps to develop flexibility, strengthen the legs and hips, and increase focus and concentration.
Here are some of the main benefits of practicing yoga for the splits, even if you never get to the traditional posture!
- Regularly practicing the splits or any of its variations can improve the flexibility of your hips, hamstrings, and groin muscles.
- Yoga for the splits poses can increase your range of motion, making it easier to perform various physical activities.
- Regularly spending time in this posture, breathing, and softening can relieve muscle tension and promote relaxation.
- Having flexible muscles can prevent injuries by reducing strain on the muscles and joints during physical activities.
- Flexible hip and leg muscles can be obtained through practicing Hanumanasana.
- Stretching into splits can stimulate blood flow to the muscles, promoting circulation and helping with muscle recovery.
- Stretching exercises like yoga for the splits postures have a calming effect on the body, reducing stress and promoting a sense of well-being.
- Practicing yoga for the splits, to whatever extent you choose to, can give you a sense of resilience and accomplishment and boost your self-confidence.
Yoga for the splits: warm-up postures
Here are some of the best yoga for the splits postures that you can do as a warm-up, or to build the strength, flexibility, and space that you need for Hanumanasana:
1# Low Lunge Pose (Anjaneyasana)
One of the most foundational postures if you’d like to prepare for the splits, is Anjaneyasana.
The low lunge posture primarily targets the hip flexors, including the psoas and iliopsoas muscles. These muscles play a crucial role in achieving a deeper split by allowing greater flexibility and range of motion in the hip joints.
2# Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
Standing forward bend is a great pose to work toward the splits since it targets the hamstrings.
When developing the musculature necessary for monkey pose, consider practicing this posture with your knees bent, building more strength and stability in the legs, as well as allowing space for your lower back to relax.
3# Lizard Pose (Utthan Pristhasana)
Lizard pose stretches and opens the hips, groin, and hamstrings, helping to improve flexibility and prepare the body for deeper splits.
Practice it with your back knee down or up, which can bring you different sensations.
4#Half Split Pose (Ardha Hanumanasana)
Half split is the most common yoga for the splits warm-up pose as it lengthens the hamstring muscles, prepares the body for a deeper stretch, promotes flexibility, improves balance, and minimizes the risk of injury.
5# Pyramid Pose (Parsvottanasana)
Pyramid helps to stretch the hamstrings and calves, which are important muscles for achieving the splits.
It also opens up the hips and stretches the spine, preparing the body for other yoga for the splits variations.
6# Reclined Hand-to-big-toe (Supta Padangusthasana)
Practiced laying on the ground, this is an accessible way to warm up the target muscle groups.
It helps improve flexibility, increases range of motion, and warms up the targeted muscle groups, preparing the body.
7# Standing Splits (Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana)
If you want to practice a standing variation of this yoga for splits poses, try standing splits.
This way of practicing Hanumanasana can help you improve hamstring flexibility, hip mobility, balance, and stability.
Yoga for the splits: Pose variations and modifications
Although practicing Hanumanasana has many benefits, we invite you to consider that it is not a very accessible posture for many.
There are a wide variety of variations and modifications of the posture that you can play with and explore, and never attempt Hanumanasana.
- Use a folded blanket under your front hip if it’s floating to be able to relax into the pose and reduce strain.
- If you feel too much intensity, use blocks under your hands to help you stay more buoyant and reduce the depth of the stretch.
- Change the plane of the posture by practicing splits on the wall. Notice here if your lifted hip is opening up, and try to keep your hips square to the wall.
Yoga for the side splits: Samakonasana
The second of the splits, Samakonasana, also known as the straight angle pose requires a different warm-up as well as prep postures than Hanumanasana.
Although it is not the focus of this article, we want to mention a few of the yoga postures that you can introduce into your practice in order to prepare for side splits:
- Low lunge pose (Anjaneyasana)
- Side lunge (Skandasana)
- Seated wide-legged forward fold (Upavistha Konasana)
- Frog Pose (Mandukasana)
- Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)
- Wide-legged forward fold (Prasarita Paddotanasana)
- Revolved Head to Knee Pose (Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana)
If you’re ready to give yoga for the splits postures a try, we invite you to try this short practice.
Remember that when you practice yoga for the splits often, you may start to see your Hanumanasana begin to transform.
Monkey pose is inspired by the mythology of Lord Hanuman and it can be practiced in its traditional form or you can choose to practice variations or preparatory yoga for the splits asanas that are more accessible for your needs.
The splits warm-ups and variations are great postures to explore and play with for those who want to gain not only flexibility but more strength, stability, and bodily awareness.
To learn more about other flexibility-focused yoga poses, read this next.