BY: TRISHA CURLING
Splits or Hanumanasana carries a beautiful story and was told to me for the first time by a brilliant yoga teacher and friend from Sweden, by the name of Ingrid Andrén (Owner of Studio Move It). I won’t get into the whole story, but she took us on a journey through her entire class.
By way of the story, she helped us to understand that “This pose asks you not merely to stretch your legs but also to bring true devotion into your practice. Hanumanasana expresses the expansiveness possible…the sense that you can overcome any obstacle when your yearning to help is combined with reverence and respect…In Hanumanasana you strive to reach much further than seems humanly possible.” (Aadil Palkhivala, Yoga Column: Hanumanasana, Yoga Journal, Aug 28, 2007).
When you hear “splits” you might think, forget it, that’s not possible. You might be right, but you also might be wrong.It’s true that not every pose is for everyone and there are a number of reasons why this could be, but the journey and process arguably outweighs the end result.
There are a number of poses that will help to prepare you for Hanumanasana.Keep in mind, however, that if splits are not the pose for you, along the way you will gain benefits like increased flexibility, strength and confidence.
Here are two poses that are essential to incorporate in your regular practice.
- Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana): In a seated position on your mat, extend both legs out in front of you. If the legs cannot be completely straight, take them out as long as your body will allow. Next, on an inhale, lengthen through the spine by sitting up tall. On your exhale, lean your chest forward while keeping the shoulder blades slightly drawn in towards one another. Your chest should feel as though it is reaching to touch the tips of your toes. Take your arms forward to grasp your feet. You may want to place a yoga strap around your feet if you cannot reach them. This will allow you to grab each side of the strap with your hands to walk yourself forward with more support. Stay in the pose for a few breaths and enjoy the gentle lengthening of your hamstrings and calf muscles.
- Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana): From Downward Facing Dog, shift your weight forward while stepping the right foot in front between your hands. At the same time, lower the back knee down, uncurl the toes and place the top of your foot on your mat.Brace your waist (feel as though you are lifting your pubic bone towards your chest), lengthen your tailbone down, and inhale as you lift your arms up. Stay for a few breaths to feel the lengthening of your hip flexors and repeat on the other side.
All while practicing the physicality of the postures, it is impossible to leave behind the confidence and conquering that become part of your mindset. The sense of power and accomplishment accompany these preparation poses as much as Hanumanasana itself.
The most important takeaway that Andrén left us with at the end of her class was, “Don’t tell Hanuman how big your problems are, tell your problems how big your Hanuman is..”I hope this serves you in both your journey to splits and in life.