Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana or Standing Splits Pose may initially look impossible, but can be summed up in six simple words: what goes down, must come up. The more you ground down evenly through the standing foot, the more you can use that energy to lift the extended leg even higher.
Finding the appropriate balance between stretch and strength, ease and effort, and grace and grit will challenge you to open up, both physically and mentally. With a little bit of practice, you’ll find yourself opening up to all sorts of possibilities!
Benefits of Standing Splits:
Standing Splits creates a wonderful stretch for all of the muscles of the leg: hamstrings, calves, and thighs. Practicing Standing Splits is also an exercise in balance, which improves coordination and strengthens the thighs, knees and ankles.
Since the pose also acts as a mild inversion—your head is below your heart—it’s great for improving circulation, countering stress, and strengthening your immune system.
Standing Splits Step-by-Step
From Tadasana or Mountain Pose
- Hinge at the hips to come into a gentle forward fold, with your fingertips touching the ground. If you find that your hands don’t come comfortably to the floor just yet, you can use two yoga blocks to support your hands.
- Shift your weight onto the right foot. Keep the toes spread wide and the weight distributed evenly across all four corners of the foot.
- On an inhale, slowly begin to lift your left leg parallel to the floor. As the left leg lifts higher, bring your torso closer to your standing leg, and begin to walk your hands to either side of your standing foot until you find an edge that feels appropriate for your body.
- Pay careful attention to the rotation of the thighs. Note the tendency for the left leg and hip to want to lift higher away from the floor in an effort to move deeper into the move. Try to keep the front pelvis parallel to the floor and the hips in line with one another, even if it means you can't lift your leg as high.
- Stay in the pose for 5-10 breaths. Gently lower the left leg on an exhale and take a full, deep breath in your forward fold. When you feel ready, repeat on the other side.
- Keeping the gaze focused on a fixed point on the floor can help you maintain your sense of balance if you're feeling unsteady.
- For an added challenge, you can try grasping the back of the right ankle with the right hand, or maybe even both hands!
- Since this pose is a deep stretch for the hamstrings, warming up the legs with Sun Salutations and lunges can help you practice Standing Splits safely and effectively.
- Using a wall to support the raised leg is a great way to ease into this pose.
- Rather than focusing on lifting the extended leg as high as possible, just do your best with where you are. The physical openness will come with time.
Image Credit: Julia Lee