Front Split Pose, also known as Hanumanasana or Monkey Pose
I am starting the New Year's off doing a pose that has always been a challenge for me, Front Split pose. I remember when I was younger, I could do this with ease, but the older you get the stiffer you get (I act like I'm really old, lol). My yoga practices never included Front Split pose, so I had to learn to do it on my own. I got really close in college, but couldn't take my hands off the ground. So this month, I will master it.
The Front Split Pose has many benefits:*
- Stretches the hamstrings, groin and hip flexors
- Strengthens the pelvic floor muscles
- Strengthens the abdominal muscles
- Relieves sciatica pain
How to Get into the Pose**
- Kneel on the floor. Step your right foot forward about a foot in front of your left knee, and rotate your right thigh outwardly. Do this by lifting the inner sole away from the floor and resting the foot on the outer heel.
- Exhale and lean your torso forward, pressing your fingertips to the floor. Slowly slide your left knee back, straightening the knee and at the same time descending the right thigh toward the floor. Stop straightening the back knee just before you reach the limit of your stretch.
- Now begin to push the right heel away from your torso. Because we started with a strong external rotation of the front leg, gradually turn the leg inward as it straightens to bring the kneecap toward the ceiling. As the front leg straightens, resume pressing the left knee back, and carefully descend the front of the left thigh and the back of the right leg (and the base of the pelvis) to the floor. Make sure the center of the right knee points directly up toward the ceiling.
- Also check to see that the back leg extends straight out of the hip (and isn’t angled out to the side), and that the center of the back kneecap is pressing directly on the floor. Keep the front leg active by extending through the heel and lifting the ball of the foot toward the ceiling. Bring the hands into Anjali Mudra (Salutation Seal) or stretch the arms straight up toward the ceiling.
- Stay in this pose for 30 seconds to a minute. To come out, press your hands to the floor, turn the front leg out slightly, and slowly return the front heel and the back knee to their starting positions. Then reverse the legs and repeat for the same length of time.
Modification Pose: Half Front Split Pose
Now, I know what you're thinking. Ok, Kami, you may be able to do this pose but what about me? Don't worry, I got you. I understand that Front Split pose is a more advanced yoga pose, and not everyone will be able to master it in a month, so instead try the Half Front Split Pose. As apparent by its name, Half Front Split Pose is really only half of the split, but you still get the same benefits.
How to Get into the Pose***
- Step your right foot forward in between your hands and keep a deep bend in the front knee to come into a low lunge.
- Lower your left knee to the ground directly underneath the left hip. You may want to place a blanket underneath this knee. Option to tuck your left toes for stability.
- Lift your torso up above your hips, place your hands on your hips, and ground down into your mat. Square your hips to parallel by drawing the left hip forward and the right hip back.
- With mindfulness, straighten the front leg in front of you so that only the heel of your right foot is connected to the floor. Flex your front, right foot. Micro-bend your front knee.
- Reground, activate the muscles of your legs and core, tilt your pelvis forward, and slowly fold over your front leg.
- Place your hands on blocks on either side of your front leg, or on the floor in the same fashion.
- Pause when you feel a stretch in your front hamstring and breathe length into the belly of the muscle. You may want to stay here or slowly walk your hands or blocks forward to increase the intensity of the stretch.
- Stay here for up to one minute. Then slowly and mindfully, inhale back to upright, bend into your front leg, place your hands on the ground and step back to Downward Facing Dog Pose. Repeat on the other side.
So, there it is. January is Front Split Pose, or Half Front Split Pose if you are not comfortable with the full split. Do the split once a day for at least 30 seconds on both sides. Throughout the month, I will post yoga practices focusing on Front Split pose as well as updates on my progress.
* Benefits taken from GaiamTV - http://www.gaiamtv.com/pose/front-splits-pose-hanumanasana
** Directions taken from Yoga Journal - http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/monkey-pose/
*** Directions taken from GaiamTV - http://www.gaiamtv.com/pose/half-front-splits-pose-ardha-hanumanasana