Full split, Hanumanasana in Sanskrit or Monkey Pose is meant to be one of the peak asanas in Yoga. As it requires a lot of balance, control, hamstrings and hips flexibility, full split in not an easy pose to achieve. If you have naturally tight hamstrings, it will definitely be challenging to sit in this pose comfortably. However, with consistent practice and patience, this journey is definitely fun and dare I say – worth the effort!
‘How long will it take?’
I can’t say how long this will take you because our bodies are so different. The results will reflect the amount of work you are putting in. It may take 2 weeks, 30 days or years. It’s really up to you. Personally, I have been working on my full split for a few months now and there is definitely progress, but in my case, it gets a bit harder once I am getting closer to the full expression of the pose.
You also need to allow your body to heal in between exercises. It is important to keep riding your edge, to keep pushing just slightly over your limits – back and forth. You will get uncomfortable in some of these poses, but there is no easy way to speed up the full split journey. As long as you don’t exaggerate, you don’t overwork and you set aside some recovery days, the only way is forward.
‘But I am just not THAT flexible…’
That is the beauty of this pose. You HAVE to be NON-flexible. You NEED to have tight hamstrings. Through practice, you will soften those tight areas in your body and you will build the necessary muscles to keep the balance. There is always a bigger reward at the end of a bumpy road.
Or just like my dad used to say all the time – If it was easy, anyone would do it!
SUPER IMPORTANT – some days your body will talk to you and say – No more splits today, hun! – and you need to listen. Sometimes, it won’t work and that’s fine. More than anything, it is important to acknowledge that muscles have memory. If one day you had a breakthrough in your full split and you stop exercising for a week, not everything is lost! In fact, nothing is lost. Your muscles are smart enough to remember your achievement and they will take it from there if you warm up properly beforehand.
Without any further due, I will go deep into the ten Yoga poses that helped me achieve a full split on a good day. This is a quite lengthy post, so please bear with me. I felt the need to explain everything in detail because just like you, I was looking for a quick fix and it didn’t work until I finally realised that I didn’t have a good technique up my sleeve.
The Big Secret
It’s not that big really, but it was a big realisation for me when I finally understood it. This journey is not all about pushing yourself hoping that one day your pelvis will touch the floor and your hips will be squared. It is about that too, but more importantly a good technique and smart strategy will get you there.
The thing that made the difference for me is first – Strengthen and then Push. Therefore, I will split those 10 Yoga poses in two categories. I highly encourage you to mix and match those exercises to make it fun and entertaining.
1/ High Crescent Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
Start at the top of your mat, lift the right leg up and slowly place it at the back of the mat. Front leg will keep a 90 degree angle with the left thigh parallel with the ground. Find a focus point (Drishti), keep the hands on your hips and start dipping the back foot. Smash 20 reps on each side.
2/ Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
From the High Crescent Lunge, bring the back foot on top of the other one and create the bind (if that’s available). Bind the hands and start dipping in this pose to your maximum and back, trying to maintain the balance. Once you get to the lowest point, hold it there for one breath and come back to High Crescent Lunge. Repeat this exercise 20 times on each side.
Make sure that when you start dipping with the other leg, change the bind in your hands as well. I usually try to reflect the bind on both legs and arms. More specifically, if the left leg is going on top of the right one, my left arm will go on top of the right one and vice versa.
This is when your legs will start talking to you.
3/ Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III)
From High Crescent Lunge, lean slightly forward and keep the weight on the front leg. Keeping your gaze focused, lift the back leg and make a 90 degree angle. Your back and lifted leg should be aligned and parallel with the ground. You can keep the hands on your hips and start doing squats on your foundation leg. The squat doesn’t have to be extremely deep, once the back leg slightly touches the ground, you can get back up in Warrior III. Repeat this exercise 20 times on each leg.
4/ Garland Pose / Yogic Squat (Malasana)
Because there are never enough squats, we will work on opening our hips and strengthening our glutes.
Starting at the top of your mat with legs slightly wider than hips-width, squat all the way down keeping your heels in and toes towards the corners of the mat. You can definitely use your elbows to push the legs outward. Keeping your back straight, you can do all the necessary movements and jiggles in order to get more comfortable in this pose.
Once this asana becomes more familiar, you can engage your glutes to lift your booty by keeping the knees as open as possible without using the hands. Hold the lift for 5 breaths, then relax in Malasana. Repeat this exercise 10 times or 20 or as many times as you like. It might not look like you’re doing much, but it will set your bum on fire.
5/ Table Top Leg Lifts
We will definitely not relax in this table top pose. Just so you know. Starting in a table top position, straighten the right leg and lift it up to your maximum. The key in this exercise is to keep the back straight and use your glutes for lifting. The tendency will be to add a backbend to lift the leg so it will reach the ego, but that is not necessary. This movement will both strengthen your glutes and work on hamstrings. Repeat this exercise 10 times on each side. If this becomes easier, you can incorporate resistant bands to make it harder and more effective.
Now relax, catch up your breath – this was the Strengthening part and the hardest one. We will now move onto the Push part of the journey where we will concentrate the heat created so far into a beautiful full split!
1/ Standing Split on Wall (Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana)
Measure a few feet from the wall, ground yourself on the right leg and use the hands for more stability. Left leg will be slowly placed up on the wall behind you. Straighten both legs and push into your hands in order to get closer to the wall. If you are having a hard time touching the ground with your hands, I highly recommend some yoga blocks.
As I mentioned before, keep pushing and riding your edge for a breath and then come back to the stretch level you feel comfortable. You don’t want to pull a muscle and you definitely want to be able to walk the following day. Repeat this pose for 5 breaths on each leg.
The wall is your best friend
2/ Lizard Pose (Utthan Pristhasana)
Starting in a Crescent pose, lower the back knee on the ground. Making sure you keep a 90 degree angle with the front knee, you can work towards lowering your forearms on the mat. You can always use some yoga blocks at the beginning and gradually lower while keeping your back straight. You should aim to keep the back leg straight, aligning all the way to your toes. Hold this pose for 5 breaths on each side.
Think about happy things, even this gorgeous lizard!
3/ Low Lunge Backbend Variation (Kapiasana)
Starting in a Crescent pose, lower the back knee on the floor and keep a 90 degree angle with the front leg. Grounding yourself in this pose, place your hands on the lower back. Aim to square your hips and gently apply some pressure in order to get the upper part of your quadriceps closer to the mat. Once you feel a deeper stretch in your back leg, you can incorporate a backbend. You can use some yoga blocks for support and balance. Hold this pose for 5 breaths on each side.
4/ Camel Pose (Ushtrasana)
Stand on your knees, legs hips-width apart. I encourage you to start with your toes tucked for better support and once you feel more comfortable, you can untuck them. Place your hands on the lower back and start extending your upper-body towards the back without applying too much pressure on the lower-back. The idea is to open your chest as much as possible and only then to bend from the lower-back. Place the hands on your heels and imagine there is a string pulling you up. Try to push the hips to the front of the mat so as not to collapse on your back. This pose will help you feel the stretch in your chest and upper-quadriceps. Hold this pose for 5 breaths and rest in a Child’s pose immediately after to counteract the backbend.
5/ Half Split Pose (Ardha Hanumanasana)
Start in a Table Top pose, straighten the right leg and place it in front of you. Keeping the back knee in line with your hips at a 90 degree angle, you can find the micro-action of sticking your booty out. It might not look like you’re doing much as this is mostly an internal action, but you will feel a good stretch in your hamstrings. Once you feel warmed up, you can place the hands on the mat, straighten the back and aim to get closer to your front leg.
I tend to measure my progress with how close I can get my elbows to touch the ground. Push to your edge and back. Use all the necessary movements that will help you get more comfortable in this pose. Hold this pose for 5 breaths on each side.
If you think those exercises helped you to properly stretch your quadriceps and hamstrings, from your Half Split pose, you can extend the back leg and find your own expression of Full Split.
Don’t worry if it’s not how you imagined, it will look different for all of us. Work on this pose from a place of gratitude. Have the patience and trust that you will get exactly where you want to be.
That’s it guys!
These are the ten Yoga poses that helped me get here. I will show you a few pictures with my progress of the last few months.
I still have a lot of work to do in order to get my back quadriceps to touch the ground fully, but getting there!
How are you working on your Full Split? Very curious to hear your tips as well!
Please comment below and let me know how you found this article.