Learn How to Do the Splits (Yoga Pose Photo Tutorial)

Allie Flavio
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Hanumanasana or Full Splits Pose is a yoga posture with a depth and greatness that is typically misunderstood or goes completely unnoticed. This is for a simple reason – splits are hard.

Like really hard.

The posture is asking the body and mind to literally split in opposing directions. It’s asking the yoga practitioner to practice both strength and suppleness. It requires the ego to dissolve and our true self to step forward. Hanumanasana is humbling, to say the least.

To bring it all back to the physical aspect of yoga and the split posture itself, I’ll break down postures that will prepare you for the GIANT LEAP and then what to do when you arrive.

This is a tutorial on how to do the splits. Here we go…
 
 

Here’s How to Do the Splits: Practice These 5 Yoga Poses to Prepare Your Body for Full Splits, or Hanumanasana

 

1. Anjaneyasana or Low Lunge

 
yogatutorial_splits_lowlunge

This posture is a great place to start preparing for the splits. Low Lunge is a hip opener, leg strengthener, helpful for sciatica, and a massage for the digestive and reproductive organs. The pose can aid in elimination, so literally helping us to eliminate what no longer serves us.

Here’s How to Practice:

  • Plant the foot directly in front of the body and make sure it’s flexed back towards your face – this will help the hips be able to sink down
  • The back leg is relaxed and the knee is down, toes are toenail side down
  • Hands can rest to the floor, your thigh, or be extended towards the sky
  • Tailbone is gently tucking and belly is engaged here – think up and in towards the heart
  • Roll the shoulders onto the back and keep length in the spine – gaze is straight out
  • Melt the hip down towards the ground – strengthening the front leg and stretching the back hips
  • Stay for at least 10 deep breaths and then repeat on the other side

 

 
 

2. Ardha Hanumanasana or Half Splits

 
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Ardha Hanumanasana, or Half Splits is exactly what the name says – it’s ½ of a split. It’s a beautiful stretch for the hamstrings and aids in squaring the hips and stabilizing the pelvis.

Here’s How to Practice:

  • From Low Lunge, bring fingertips to the ground as you straighten the front leg and send the hips back towards the heel
  • Keep the front foot and leg active and engaged – no lucy goosies here!
  • Square the hips. This can take some time, so examine your movements and then adjust accordingly
  • Keep the back side of the body long and flat while extending through the crown of the head
  • Breathe energy and love into the front hamstring – it’s going to be talking to ya!
  • Stay for at least 10 deep breaths and then repeat on the other side

 

3. Upavista Konasana or Seated Wide Legged Forward Bend

 
yogatutorial_splits_upavistakonasana

Upavista Konasana or Seated Wide Legged Forward Bend is the prep posture that has it all (and is a mouthful to say). It strengthens the quadriceps while stretching the hamstrings, hips, and groin AND tractions and lengthens the spine – all necessary components for Splits Pose!

Only practice this pose if your body is warm and ready for a deep stretch. I recommend at least 20 minutes of movement and heat building before moving into this.

Here’s How to Practice:

  • Find a comfortable seat and spread the legs wide to your edge – don’t overdo it here!
  • Keep the legs active with quadriceps engaged, knee caps gently lifting, and flexion in the toes
  • Place the hands behind the legs and use them to help sit tall and lengthen/strengthen the back body
  • Keep the belly active by sending the bellybutton back towards the spine
  • If this is easy for you, slowly walk your hands out in front of you as you lower the chest towards the ground
  • Stay for at least 10 breaths

 

4. Paschimottanasana or Seated Forward Bend

 
yogatutorial_splits_paschi

Paschimottanasana or Seated Forward Bend is a wonderful yoga pose to stretch the backside of our legs – those stubborn hamstrings. Like many people, I sit for long periods of time staring at a computer screen.

Long periods of sitting greatly tax the body, especially our flexibility in the hamstrings. And while activities like running, biking, and strength building are SO beneficial, they greatly hinder our ability to stretch.

Paschimottanasana tractions and lengthens the spine, opens the rib cage, and allows for full breathing into the backs of the lungs.

Here’s How to Practice:

  • Find a comfortable seat and extend the legs straight out in front of you
  • Gently move your booty out from underneath and feel the connection of the sit bones and the ground
  • Keep your legs and feet active and engaged
  • Inhale the arms overhead, hinge from the hips, and reach towards your toes, shins, or wherever is comfortable
  • On the inhale, lengthen the crown of the head towards the feet
  • On the exhale, melt down into this space
  • Relax shoulders down and away from the ears and keep belly engaged
  • Stay for a least 10 deep breaths

 

 
 

5. Kapotasana or Pigeon Pose

 
yogatutorial_splits_pigeon

Kapotasana or Pigeon Pose is our final step before we make the giant leap into full splits! Pigeon Pose opens the hips and provides a deep stretch into the buttocks and piriformis muscle. It can be helpful for sciatica and massages the digestive organs aiding in elimination.

Here’s How to Practice:

  • Start in tabletop position and bring left knee towards the left wrist and the left heel towards the right wrist – working the shin towards parallel to the front of the mat
  • Slide the right foot back and release the foot to the ground – toenail side down
  • Slowly lower the chest to the ground coming down to forearms, a block, or maybe all the way to your mat
  • Square the hips by gently bringing the right hip forward and sending the left hip back
  • Stay for at least 10 deep breaths and then repeat on the other side

 
 

Here’s How to Do the Splits – You’re Ready to Try It!

Okay – let’s pause for a moment because that was a LOAD of information.

All of the above yoga poses are to help prep the hips, hamstrings, and groin area for your body to safely access the full splits. At this point, the body should be warm and ready to move into Hanumanasana.

I highly recommend using yoga blocks to inch the hips lower to the ground as you spread the legs farther apart. Blocks are literally your best friend in this pose.

For the next few photos, I won’t provide step-by-step instructions on how to do the splits. Instead, please do the following for all.

Here’s How to Practice:

  • Start with the yoga blocks on the highest height and continually lower them down as the body opens and the hips and legs release
  • Square the hips off to the front of the mat
  • Engage the front leg and keep it active throughout the pose
  • Stack shoulders over hips
  • Keep the belly area engaged to protect the low back
  • And breeeeeeeathe!

 

yogautorial_splits_block1
 

yogatutorial_split_block2
 

yogatutorial_split_block3
 

yogatutorial_fullsplit-2

 
 

The Story and Symbolism Behind Splits Pose

As you embark on this journey towards the GIANT LEAP, begin to notice the connection between your reach for pose and any pain or doubt that arises. When experiencing pain or doubt, focus the breath and turn inward.

Let’s take a step back from the physical posture and examine the story behind it – this will help shine a greater light on what the posture is truly meant to teach us.

Sit back for a moment and enjoy this short yoga story about how Full Splits got its name.

The story involves four characters: Rama, Sita, Lakshman, and Hanuman. Rama is the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu and highly regarded in the Hindu religion. He is seen as the ideal man in every regard who embodies his dharma, or life purpose.

Sita, Rama’s beloved wife, is seen as the ideal woman embodying the greatness of womanhood. Lakshman, Rama’s brother, symbolizes sacrifice and devotion, having left his wife to serve his elder brother during exile. And lastly, Hanuman is a monkey superhero who symbolizes physical strength, bravery, and spiritual devotion.

Rama, Sita, and Lakshman are exiled from their country and roam the forest together for 14 years. Sita is abducted by an enemy and taken to a far off island. Rama is beside himself having lost his beloved wife. Hanuman steps forward and wholeheartedly devotes himself to reuniting the two.

Using his superhero strength, Hanuman takes one GIANT LEAP from the southern tip of India to the island of Sri Lanka. And as you can guess, he rescues Sita and reunites her and Rama.

This GIANT LEAP was again performed when Lakshman fell in battle. In order for him to survive, a specific herb was needed from the Himalayan Mountains. Hanuman, practicing love and devotion, leapt to the mountain to retrieve this special herb. But upon arriving, he had no idea which herb to bring back.

So in true superhero nature, he uprooted the entire mountain and brought it back to Rama and his fallen brother. And as you can guess, Lakshman recovered and all was well.

Yes, this story is very old and can be viewed as silly, but let’s examine it from an everyday life perspective. The GIANT LEAP that Hanuman performs (not only once, but twice!) symbolizes the expansive idea of possibility. The idea that regardless of life’s circumstances, we can achieve our goals with a concoction of three ingredients:

Devotion.
Intensity.
Love.

So where in life do you need to make a giant leap? What goals or dreams have you put on the backburner or simply forgot about? How can you manifest the spirit inside to take a chance, take a leap, and land on the other side – the side that involves happiness, peace, and love (which is what we all truly want, right?).

And with that, I leave you to take whatever GIANT LEAP you’ve been dreaming of!
 
 

Take This Strength and Flexibility Class On YA Classes to Gain More Flexibility for Practicing the Splits

The peak pose in this yoga class for strength and flexibility in the splits. Take this class as many times as you need in order to access full splits.

With Denelle Numis
30-minutes Class | All Levels
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The Story Behind How the Yoga Pose Hanumanasana (Splits or Monkey Pose) Got Its Name
Ever wonder where yoga poses get their names from? This is the story of the leap of faith by Hanuman, the monkey god. Learn the story of Hanumanasana here.
Read »

Allie Flavio

Allie is the soul behind TheJourneyJunkie.com and a yoga girl at heart. When Allie’s not blogging about yoga/travel advice or doing/teaching yoga, you can find her relaxing by the beach in sunny St. Petersburg, FL. A born and raised Florida girl, Allie is an outdoor junkie who loves the ocean, fresh air, and a delicious fish sandwich! To learn more about her yoga and travel adventures, check out her blog The Journey Junkie.

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