Most of us spend hours at a time sitting: working from a computer, driving to and from work, eating, and watching TV. All that time sitting adds up and leads to tight lower body muscles.
Tight hips and legs eventually lead to back issues and posture misalignment. Over time chronic pain can be the result.
Most adults have tight hip flexors and hamstrings, making this pose difficult to achieve. It can take weeks, months even to fully master the pose.
Whether you currently practice yoga and want to challenge yourself, or you're looking for a deep stretch for the long muscles of your lower body, I can help!
Let's get you into a stretch routine. This will help you properly learn how to do this advanced pose.
Step 1: Enjoy The Process
The full splits pose is an advanced leg stretch and hip-opener. The most important thing to remember is to listen to your body. Don't go beyond your point of growth.
You always want to warm up your hamstrings before going into the pose. Practicing a few minutes each day will enable you to go further over time. Don't set unrealistic expectations for yourself or your body. If you struggle with tight hamstrings, I wouldn't expect you to master the splits in just two weeks. It takes time!
Enjoy the process! Each time you stretch, you're doing something good for your body. Remember to accept your limitations and acknowledge your body's abilities.
Here is a video to help you see how to warm up your hamstrings and how to safely get into the pose:
Step 2: Warm Up First
You always need to prepare your hamstrings with a warm-up before attempting advanced hip-openers.
The first pose in your hip-opening sequence is a standing forward fold. Standing forward folds can be used to rejuvenate the whole body while calming the mind.
1. Begin standing tall, with your hands on your hips.
2. Exhale as you bend forward at the hips, lengthening the front of your torso.
3. Bend your elbows and hold on to each elbow with the opposite hand. Let the crown of your head hang down. Press your heels into the floor as you lift your sit bones toward the ceiling. Turn the tops of your thighs slightly inward. Do not lock your knees.
4. If you can keep the front of your torso long and your knees straight, place your palms or fingertips on the floor beside your feet. Bring your fingertips in line with your toes and press your palms on the floor or mat. Those with more flexibility can place their palms on the backs of their ankles.
5. Engage your quadriceps (the front thigh muscles) and draw them up toward the ceiling. The more you engage your quadriceps, the more your hamstrings (the rear thigh muscles) will release.
6. Bring your weight to the balls of your feet. Keep your hips aligned over your ankles.
7. Slightly lift and lengthen your torso with each inhalation. Release deeper into the pose with each exhalation. Let your head hang.
8. Hold the pose for up to one minute. To release, place your hands on your hips. Draw down through your tailbone and keep your back flat as you inhale and return to standing.
- Bend your knees to emphasize lengthening the front of your torso.
- Instead of bringing your head and hands all the way down, bring your belly to your thighs.
- Aim for aligning your ankles, knees, and hips.
- Come up from the pose with a flat back.
Do this pose 5 times as a warm-up.
Step 3: Do Some Lunges After Your Warm-Up
Lunges are great for stretching and strengthening the lower and upper body while creating stability and balance.
The Crescent Lunge stretches the legs, groin, and hip flexors, while also opening the front torso, chest, and shoulders. Additionally, it strengthens and tones the thighs, hips, and butt, while the balancing aspect helps to develop flexible stability.
Here's how to get into position:
- Work on getting the foot and leg placement first. Set your feet, then adjust your legs. Then, align your hips. Finally, lift your torso and extend your arms.
- If the High Lunge version is too difficult, bring your back knee to the mat and un-tuck your back toes.
- To help improve balance, practice this pose facing a wall and press the big toe of your front foot against the wall. Reach your arms up and slightly forward, resting your fingertips on the wall.
Try to combine the standing forward fold with the crescent lunge and do 3-5 rounds. This will help strengthen your muscles as you learn to stretch into this advanced pose.