The yoga splits, or Hanumanasana, are a lifelong journey for many yogis. Fortunately, there’s more than one way to approach a Monkey. These four variations of the pose each offer their own value.
If your hamstrings are tight, this is your Hanuman. Think of this as the cute kid cousin of Monkey Pose. This variation is primarily focused on the action of the front leg (hamstring opening), and it’s a great starter pose for the journey to full splits.
Start in Downward-Facing Dog and step your right foot forward to your right thumb. Drop your back knee onto the mat. Pull your hips back to stack over your left knee, then wiggle your right foot forward enough to straighten your leg. Keep your right foot flexed. And if you want bonus points (and sensation), draw all 5 toes back toward your face. Keep your quad engaged to help elongate and protect your hamstring. You can work with two hands on blocks. Or if you can, take them to ground. Avoid rounding in your spine. Either focus on staying upright, or simply bend your elbows to draw yourself deeper into the pose.
If your psoas muscles are tight, work here. This supported version helps you access and open these deep hip-flexing muscles.
From Downward-Facing Dog, step your right foot forward to meet your right thumb. Lower your back knee down onto your mat and pull your body into Runner’s Lunge. Have 3 blocks ready, and place one under each hand according to the height you require. Press into the blocks as you curl your rear toes under and slightly elevate your knee. Wiggle back on the ball of your left foot to go deeper into your left psoas. Once you’ve reached your sweet spot, slide the 3rd block (any height will do) under your right hamstring connector so you can rest there. Press your hands into the blocks to draw your torso upright and engage your lower abdominals.
If you’re ready to balance both the psoas and hamstring work, this supported variation helps you find your edge and get comfortable there.
This is the graduated version of the previous move. Start in Runner’s Lunge and begin the wiggle dance: Curl your back toes under and shimmy the ball of your left foot back a few inches, then place your knee back down. Shift to your front leg, sliding the heel of your right foot forward a pinch. Keep going back and forth until you’ve reached a comfortable edge. Place the block whichever height you need under the hamstring connector of your front leg. If you feel solid, engage your lower belly and try extending your arms straight up. If this is too intense, keep your hands on the ground.
Game time! Remember the full pose is 50% hamstring opening of the front leg and 50% psoas opening of the back.
Begin in Runner’s lunge and wiggle away. Curl your back toes under with a slight lift of the knee to wiggle the left foot back to access the psoas, and reset that leg before you add a forward glide of your right heel to get into your hamstring. Keep going back and forth until you can comfortably land in the full pose. Keep the front quad engaged, lower belly active, and either press your fingertips into the ground to grow taller though your torso or lift your arms straight up shoulder-width apart.