Yoga with Bianca | Splits Pose
The splits is one of my favorite poses! While I practiced this pose years ago in ballet, I lost a lot of that flexibility as the years went by. When I first attempted it again as an adult, my hips were more than a foot above the ground. With intentional stretching over a period of a few months, I was able to eventually rest my hips on the ground. In this post, I will show you how to get into splits pose with photos and a video.
Just to preface this tutorial, everyone’s body structure is different. Our muscles, joints, and bones are built differently and any injuries will also change the dynamic. Everyone’s splits will look different, but take this tutorial as a foundation.
So let’s get started!
With any yoga pose you are attempting, you can use the following template to break down the pose:
Breaking Down Splits Pose- SOUL
Hips: Outer hips and hip flexors
U- Understand Muscle Action
Extension of hamstring muscles and core stabilization to hold you upright
Hamstrings and quads
(Source of acronym: Corepower Yoga Level II Teacher Training)
Start with your knees shoulder width distance apart or wider. Bend your knees and let your chest rest over your thighs. Allow your head to hang heavy and feel the release of tension from your neck and shoulders. After a few deep breaths in and out through your nose, work on straightening your legs. It’s totally fine if your fingertips don’t touch the ground, your hamstrings will open up over repeated practice. For the fullest expression of this pose, place your palms flat on the mat with your fingertips in line with your toes. Hold the pose for 3 to 10 breaths depending on how much time you have.
Downward Facing Dog
This one deserves a whole post on its own so I’ll break down down dog (had to ;p) in the future but this is a great pose to lengthen your calves, hamstrings, and spine. You can take organic movements in this pose by “walking” out your dog by bending one knee and the other, nodding your head “yes” and “no”, or taking shoulder dips. Bend your knees slightly to find more length in your spine. Keep your core engaged, palms flat on the mat, shoulders away from ears. Stay here for three to ten breaths.
This is one of my favorite poses and I try to incorporate it in each class I teach. Our hip flexors get shortened everyday because most of us sit all day. Align your hips over your back knee. If you have sensitive knees, you can rest your knee on a block or double roll your mat. Position your front knee at a 45 degree angle so your knee stacks over your ankle to protect your knee joint. Lengthen your spine and keep your core and glutes engaged to feel this pose even more. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths and make sure you do both sides to balance out your body.
From crescent moon, slide your front heel up as far as it takes to straighten your front leg. Keep your hips aligned above your back knee. Flex your front toes towards your face and work on squaring your hips to the front of your space. Feel free to keep a slight bend in your front knee or use blocks underneath each palm to bring the ground closer to you. With every inhale, lift your spine to a half-lift like the second photo and with every exhale fold deeper into your front leg. Keep moving through this flow as many breaths as you have time for to create space in your hamstrings.
This pose is so grounding. Start from Warrior I then straighten your front leg. Lengthen your torso towards the front while keeping your hips squared then fold over your front leg. Continue to ground your back heel down to your mat to lengthen your calves and hamstrings. Repeat the inhale half-lift, exhale-fold flow similar to half splits above.
You’ll find that you can invert most yoga poses and keep the same shape. Standing splits is basically splits but just on your feet! Square your hips to the ground when you lift your top leg up. Point your lifted toes to the mat and press your heel up in space. Picture the inseam of your lifted leg spiraling up to the ceiling. Take a microbend in your standing leg to protect your knee joint. It doesn’t matter how high your leg goes here, you will still experience the benefits of the pose with proper alignment! To make this pose more challenging, walk your fingertips closer to your standing leg or add a balance challenge by holding onto your shins. To ease the pose, use blocks underneath your hands or lower your lifted leg.
This by far was one of the most uncomfortable poses for me when I first started doing yoga. Start in a three-legged downward facing dog. Take your right knee towards your right wrist and right toes toward your left wrist. Try to work your shin as parallel to the top of you mat as you can while still keeping your back kneecap on the mat. This alignment will take time and practice. You may find that your shin is angled at a 45 degree angle at first.
Check that your back foot is angled straight and the tops of your toes press on the mat. Balance your weight equally on both hips. Take deep inhales to send your breath into the tight spaces around your hip. You can stay upright in this pose or come onto your forearms or chest. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths. Your release is three legged down dog and I like to take knee circles to further open up the hip joint.
Now you’re ready and warmed up to try full splits! I recommend having two blocks within reach when you try this for the first time. Start in half splits (see above) then slide your heel forward until your front leg straightens as much as it can. Point your front kneecap towards the ceiling. Then, slowly slide your back knee in space until you have reached your maximum stretch. Continue to square your hips forward. A test to see if you are doing this right is your back kneecap and back thigh will be facing or resting onto the mat.
If you have two blocks, place your blocks on either side of your hips and rest your palms on top of each block. Use your tricep and core strength to keep your body lifted against gravity. Work on breathing calmly in this pose. Hold here for 3 to 5 breaths. If there is only a block height of space from yourself and the mat, you can sit on a block and work on steady breaths in and out. This pose will take practice so give yourself a lot of grace! To get out of the pose, press your hands into the mat and use your core strength to slowly lift your hips off the ground or the block. Be gentle with yourself. As a counter stretch, bring both legs in front of you for seated forward fold and stay for a few breaths.
Bringing it all Together- Yoga Flow
Now let’s see all these poses in action! Remember to breathe and have fun with it! Hope you enjoyed this tutorial and please feel free to comment below with feedback, questions or requests.