How to Prep Your Hips and Hamstrings for Splits

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For many people, just hearing the word "splits" is intimidating. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to work towards them, easing in slowly and carefully, rather than jumping right into an attempt. The preparation for splits is something which is accessible to all levels of yoga students, whether you want to work towards the full pose or not.

With this practice and these poses the biggest thing is to keep an open mind. Even if you don't envision full splits ever being a part of your practice, these will open your hamstrings, stretch your quads, and get deep into your hips. All key elements if and when you do want to try for splits.

These stretches come from a 50 minute Splits Training video I posted on my YouTube channel a while back.

For these stretches you will want to have a set of blocks, a strap, and a bolster if you have one (cushions or pillows will do in a pinch).

1. Supported Bridge - Lay down on your back, bending your knees and placing the soles of the feet on the mat at about hip distance. Lift your hips up and ease a block underneath the tailbone, at whatever level feels comfortable, and come down to rest on it. Rest your hands on your stomach, let the knees fall gently towards one another. From here extend one leg out long and draw the opposite knee into the chest. While hugging the knee in keep the upper body neutral, so that you aren't yanking the leg in, but rather supporting it gently and letting gravity do the work. Switch to the other side.

2. Supine Leg Stretch - Removing the block, come down flat on the back. Grab your strap and loop it under the ball of the right foot, and extend the right leg up. Your left leg can reach long on the mat, or the knee can be bent with the sole of the foot on the mat. Flex the right foot, pressing the heel towards the sky, to get this stretch into the calf, ankle and achilles tendon. Keep a slight bend in the knee as you try to draw the leg towards the chest. Keep your breath slow and steady. Ease off if you are experiencing any difficulty in breathing. Take this into a half happy baby, by grabbing the inside of the right foot, and working the knee down to the right side of the body. As you switch sides, know that it is normal and totally okay to not be even on both sides. Just adapt the pose as you go.

3. Seated Forward Fold - Come to seated. With your right leg extended long, bring your left foot to the inside of your right thigh. Hinge forward over the extended leg. Keep your hips and shoulders squared to the front of the mat. As this is a yin yoga practice, come only to where is comfortable and allow gravity and time to work your pose deeper. This stretch is a great way to open the whole back body. Take your time to slowly ease out, before switching the legs around.

4. Low Lunge - Make your way to hands and knees. You may want to double up the mat to pad the left knee, before stepping the right foot forward between the hands. Align the knee over your ankle. Come into a low lunge, dropping the hips as you shine the heart forward. You may opt to rest your hands onto blocks, or all the way to the ground. Do keep your shoulders down. If you would like to finish by taking a quad stretch, bend the back knee and grab hold of the foot. Repeat this on the opposite side. 

5. Splits Stretch - Again from table top, step your right foot forward, as if into a lunge. But this time straighten the front leg. Flex the right foot, lifting the toes up off of the mat. This is option 1, and a totally fine place to stay and hold the stretch. You may over time slowly start walking your front foot forward or your back knee backwards to gradually lower the hips. For option 2, place a block or bolster under the hips and hamstrings. Slide the front leg forward, keep the back toes curled under. Find your edge and rest into it. Gradually work your way lower, possibly removing the supporting prop. Ever so slowly, ease out of the posture. Take a rest, a stretch, a water break, whatever is needed before you switch to left leg forward. 

Having trouble following along? Check out the full video below!
 


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Namaste,
Kassandra


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