What you’ve heard is true: Our hips hold all the stress and fear that naturally comes up in our daily lives. But recommend Hanumanasana to unwind that tension, and some yogis bow out. Because—splits? No way. But stick with us for for a minute.
With a few tweaks, Monkey Pose can be accessible to everyone. Here, North Carolina-based teacher, body-positive advocate, and Instagram star Jessamyn Stanley breaks down the pose to help out tight hips. "Along with strengthening the body in standing poses, this sequence gives you the chance to open the hips, quads, and hamstrings in preparation for Hanumanasana," says Stanley. "Hold each pose for 3 to 5 breaths on each side, maintaining a steady Ujjayi Breath throughout."
Start with your feet one leg's length apart. Rotate your right foot so it’s parallel with the long edge of your yoga mat and rotate your left foot so it’s parallel with the short edge of your mat. Line up your right heel with your left foot’s arch, bend deeply into your right knee so your knee lines up with your ankle. Try to get your front thigh parallel to the ground, sliding your front foot forward if necessary. Keeping the torso and pelvis neutral, pull your ribs in. Extend your arms, parallel to the floor. Gaze actively over your front fingers. Press into your front big toe, and stay for a few breaths. Switch sides.
Starting in Warrior II, keep your legs exactly as they are and sweep the palm of your front arm up. Let your rear hand touch your back thigh or calf, or wrap it around your back to use your front inner thigh as leverage. Spiral your heart up to the sky and stay for a few breaths. Sweep the arms back into Warrior II, straighten your front knee and turn in your front foot so it’s parallel with your back foot. Switch sides.
From Reverse Warrior Pose, extend your arms over your legs until they are parallel to the floor. If using a block, place it outside or inside of your front shin or ankle.
Whichever leg is in front, bring that hand down to the block, shin, or ground. Extend your left arm straight up to the sky, stacking your shoulders atop each other. Roll your shoulder back to open your torso and lengthen through your head to equalize the sides of your body. Keep your legs straight or put a micro-bend in your front knee. Use your core to lift yourself up out of your bottom arm. Stay for a few breaths, then switch sides.
Come to your hands and knees, keeping your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Spread your palms, index fingers parallel to each other or slightly turned out, and curl your toes under. Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor. Lengthen your tailbone and lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling. Draw your right leg up to the sky. Point your toes to the ground to keep your hips square and lengthen from the top of the femur bone to the sole of the foot. Hold for 5–10 breaths, and switch sides.
Optional Props: 2 blocks
From Three-Leg Downward-Facing Dog, exhale and step your right foot forward between your hands, aligning the right knee over the heel. Then lower your left knee to the floor and, keeping the right knee fixed in place, slide the left knee back until you feel a comfortable stretch in the left front thigh and groin. Inhale and lift your torso to upright with the hands on blocks. Keep the hands on blocks.
If you're comfortable, sweep your arms up, lifting your chest from the firmness of your shoulder blades against the back torso. Hold for 5–10 breaths, and switch sides.
Optional Props: 1-2 blocks
From Three-Leg Downward-Facing Dog, step your right foot between your hands to a lunge position. Bring both forearms to the floor inside the right leg. Keep your left knee and inner left thigh lifting and resisting. As your left heel reaches back, your heart pumps forward to create length in your upper back.
Need less intensity? Modify the pose by bringing your back knee down or placing your forearms on a block. Stay for 5–10 breaths and switch sides.
Optional Props: 2 blocks
From Lizard Lunge, release your back leg, place both hands on the floor or on blocks on either side of the front foot, and shift your hips back until your front leg is straight. Engage the leg muscles to protect the hamstring, and fold forward to wherever you can. Press the top of the back foot and the back toes down to help keep the tailbone long. Keep your hands on blocks if your palms do not come flat to the ground. Stay here for 5–10 breaths and switch sides.
Optional Props: 1–3 blocks (or more, if you want)
Start in Runner’s Lunge with your right leg forward and your hands on blocks. Wiggle your right leg forward until your thigh lowers to the ground, keeping the leg straight and the foot firmly flexed. Curl your back toes under, lift up your knee, and start sliding your foot back as far as possible. Keep wiggling and shimmying your front and back legs until your pelvis starts to descend to the ground.
Keep your hands supported with blocks, and GO SLOWLY. Stop and take a few breaths before going deeper. Slide additional blocks under your front and back thighs if you need more support.
Try to square your hips forward. Firm your right thigh bone into its socket and engage your lower belly. Press your back toes firmly into the ground and work toward sweeping your arms up to the sky. Stay for a few breaths, then switch sides.