This entry was posted on March 22, 2017.
Manduka Ambassador, Sara Quiriconi, shares four poses to prepare for full splits. Practice alongside Sara in her project:OM online classes. To learn more about joining Sara as one of the One Million to battle breast cancer, visit projectOM.com.
The key with practicing for splits is maintaining constant awareness of what feels like a stretch, versus pushing too far and like a pull. My recommendation is to move slow and be attentive and aware when practicing, making sure to feel a stretch mainly in bellies of the hamstring muscles and the opposing hip flexor and not in the sit bone area of the back of the leg (ouch!), which can lead to some wear and tear on the ligaments.
In this brief sequence, I’ll recommend you do each posture on each side before moving on to the next. Remember, the blocks have three different heights, so even though I’m showing using the lowest height, if you need the extra length, take it up a level! And, of course, continue to breathe in and out evenly and extensively throughout the practice.
1. Low Lunge Using Two Blocks
Starting with your right leg forward, take your left knee down to the mat. Place the blocks at the appropriate height directly underneath your shoulders where your hands can reach. Lengthen up through the spine, create a backbend in the upper thoracic spine, and imagine your ribs were lifting up, away from the pelvis. If it feels accessible to you, allow the hips to sink down a bit closer to the mat, extending into the left hip flexor. Continue breathing and allow the body to soften.
The last option in the position is to untuck the back toes (if they aren’t already) and press the tops of all 5 toes down to the mat, elevating the back knee. Hello, hip flexor! Keep breathing, holding this posture for 5-10 breathes. Lower the back knee down, then switch sides and repeat.
2. Lizard Lunge Using Two Blocks
Step the right foot outside the right hand, and lower the back knee down to start. Place two blocks at their lowest height where your hands would go, and lower your forearms to them for support. Keeping the bent knee stacked over the ankle, continue to draw the right thigh in to hug the rib cage, extending through the upper back and drawing the gaze slightly forward.
Optional: Tuck the back toes under and lift the back knee, extending the leg completely. Noting the hips will be level, core active, and upper back lengthened. Breathe, holding this posture for 5-10 full cycles of breath. Switch sides and repeat.
3. Half Split
We’re half way there! Literally!
The half split may be where you are in this progression for quite some time, so don’t feel the urge to move past this one so quickly. I actually always start out my prep work for splits by coming into this half-extended posture first.
Starting in a lunge position, very similar to the first low lunge position we took, extend the front leg with the foot flexed, toes pointing up and front thigh actively engaged. The hips stack over the back knee, and as you press down in towards the blocks, lengthen the spine out in front, allowing the heart to lead forward.
Hold for 5-10 breath cycles, then switch sides.
4. Full Split with Blocks
As a final option, you can start to work from half split as shown in number three to a full split variation using the blocks, as shown above. I like this variation because it allows you to practice extending the back leg, taking full advantage of the open hip flexors and upper back we worked in the first two lunges and the hamstring opening we did in number three.
Keep the back thigh facing down towards the mat, front toes pointing skyward, and the backbend in the upper back, keeping space in the lower. And, most importantly, breathe!
Final Tips: Have patience, move slowly, and stay aware of where the stretch is coming from the entire time when working these postures and variations. Stay light, free, and open to possibility, while accepting where you are each and every day in the practice. The effort towards splits is truly about the journey!
As a 13-year cancer survivor, Sara fell in love with yoga for its self-healing properties and has been practicing yoga since 2008. Notably one of Miami’s top fitness professionals, she is a certified Yoga Instructor and Health Coach determined to share the message of living free through our own empowered choices and actions. Visit her website and follow her on social media.