Good Monday Ladies and Gents!
I hope that all of you had weekends full of rest and recovery that left you ready for your weeks. I worked pretty much all weekend, but alas, life goes on.
I received a request a few weeks ago, asking if I would do a post on how one prepares themselves to practice the Monkey Posture. Hanumanasana, or the side splits, is a posture that requires lots of opening in the hips, hamstrings and calves, as well as good body awareness. Here is how I recommend going about it!
I learned to do the side splits as a dancer, but the way I did them in dance was very different from the yoga way!
To start off, I recommend getting a good warm up doing Sun Salutations and some standing postures at least, before you attempt to come into this pose. I would even go so far as to say that you may want to hold off doing this pose until close to the end of your practice. This way you can ensure that you are really warm and open, as well as aware of your body.
The following are some postures that I think will help warm you up for this posture, as well as open the muscles that need to be opened.
For this first posture, you will need to roll up your mat, and get yourself a strap. (Or belt or bath robe string or whatever you have that may resemble a belt.)
You will lie on the floor, with the rolled up mat directly under the small of your back – the part of your back that naturally rounds away from the floor. Have your knees bent, feet on the floor.
Lift one of your knees to your chest, and place the strap around your metatarsals.
Straighten the leg that has the strap around it as much as you can, using the strap to pull your toes towards your face. You can extend the bottom leg along the floor or keep it bent, depending on your level of openness.
This posture is pure hamstring work. By putting the rolled mat under your Lumbar spine (yeah, I know what the sections of the spine are called, I went to school), you are taking away your ability to use the flexibility of your lower back to draw the leg in toward you. This by-passes the hamstring. If you practice this pose often, you will see an improvement in your hamstring openness!
Next, Id like to advise many, many crescent lunges. Not only do they open the hips, they also teach you how to keep your hips in line with one another. Imagine that you have a head light on each of your hip bones. When you are in hanumanasana, the goal is to get both those lights pointing straight forward. That is where your hips are in crescent lunge too!
Ardha Hanumanasana, or half monkey pose is next. You will have one knee bent, directly under your hip, with your toes curled under behind you. Your other leg will be straight out in front of you, with your heel in the ground and your toes strongly flexed to the ceiling. Your hips should be in perfect alignment in this posture. (remember your headlights?) You are rounding forward in the posture to encourage opening in the hamstrings. Only go as far as you can whilst keeping the front leg straight., no bending the front knee!
From here, you can start to work your front leg a little bit more forward, and the back leg a little bit more back…
And again, move the front leg out in front more. Keeping your focus on your hips being in line, your back toes staying tucked under, and your back leg coming straight out from your hip, not off to either side.
As you open, you can come down farther and farther until one day, you will be doing it!
From here you can take your arms up, to get yourself into the classic posture;
You can reach back for a heart opener;
Or you can lean forward for a forward bend variation.
So there you have it! How to be a Monkey! If you have any more reader requests, please, let me know!