For me, there is no better feeling than to go to a yoga class and enjoy a really long, juicy stretch in the hamstrings. For others, I know that hamstring stretches can seem excruciating, even if held for just a moment.
Half Splits Pose (Ardha Hanumanasana) is an accessible way for those at all levels to gently open up the legs and begin to take the leap toward more advanced poses like Full Front Splits (Hanumanasana). May happy hamstrings abound!
Benefits of Half Splits Pose
Half Splits Pose stretches the thighs, hamstrings, and groins, and is great prep work for the full expression of the splits. This pose is also often referred to as Runner’s Lunge, and it’s clear why—the benefits of the stretch are particularly amenable to runners, who tend to hold tightness in the legs.
Half Splits Pose Step-By-Step
- Begin in Downward-Facing Dog, with the palms firmly grounded and the hips lifting up high and back. Take a few breaths here, bending the knees and lifting the heels to open up through the back of the legs.
- On an exhale, step your right foot forward between your hands. Lower down onto your left knee and release the top of the left foot on the ground.
- Flex your right foot, coming up onto the heel and extending your toes back toward you, and begin to straighten your right leg as much as you comfortably can.
- Keep your hips square and stacked over your left knee. Inhale to lengthen your spine, and as you exhale, begin to fold over your right leg.
- Find the action of energetically drawing your right heel back while reaching your chest forward, and draw your shoulder blades down your back and away from your ears.
- Remain in the pose for 5 to 10 breaths. To come out of the pose, tuck the left toes under, plant the palms, and make your way back into Downward-Facing Dog. Repeat on the other side whenever you feel ready.
- Rather than rounding the spine and curling the shoulders in an effort to bring the torso closer to the extended leg, focus on finding the stretch in the hamstring by lengthening the spine and reaching the chest forward toward the toes.
- If it feels challenging to have the hands down on the ground, try walking the hands closer toward your body, or elevating the hands on blocks, which will decrease the intensity of the stretch.
- Often, the hip on the straight leg side will pull forward and the hip on the bent knee side will pull back. As you hold this pose, bring your attention into your hips, and find the action of drawing the hip on the straight leg side back, and the hip on the bent knee side forward until the hips are square.
- If there is any discomfort in the back knee, try folding the long edge of your mat over or tucking a blanket or towel under the knee for added support.
How did you like practicing Half Splits Pose? Which parts did you find the most difficult, and which parts were easiest? Let us know in the comments!