The year was 2017 when my 30-something self decided to embark on a journey to splits. Quite frankly, I highly doubted if I would ever be able to reach this kind of flexibility as an adult. I had never done anything like this before. After practicing for many many months I was a block away from the floor when doing front splits. Given my job and other priorities, I didn’t practice the stretches every day. I got pregnant in 2018 and it was only in early 2020 I was able to resume my journey to attain splits. In this post, I will list all the stretches I did to gain flexibility for front splits.
Below, the first picture is from 2016 when I tried splits for the first time. The second one was clicked after pregnancy and delivery. The third one is from this year.
How I am learning to do Splits – is the first blog post I wrote about my journey to splits. This post has a few stretches that helped me as a beginner.
Please make sure your body is warmed up before stretching. Spend at least 10 minutes doing a proper warmup, especially if you are doing these stretches in the morning. A quick way to warm up the legs is to go for a fast-paced walk or a jog. You can also do Surya Namaskars, low-intensity jumping jacks, or even skipping. Warming up the body is important as it reduces the risk of injury.
You can do a flexibility test as well as mentioned in this excellent guide to splits
Things to Remember
Please do not rush. Always ease into the stretches by breathing normally. Try not to hold your breath or tense your body while doing these stretches. Don’t push yourself beyond your range. Stop immediately if you feel any kind of pain. Adjust your position and use props like yoga blocks or the wall.
Don’t forget to take a rest-day after every 2 days, especially after deep stretching. If possible include strength training in your routine as it will help you to strenghten your muscles and joints.
I always start my practice with a few rounds of Surya Namaskars. It warms up the whole body, activates the core, stretches, and strengthens the legs. After which I go straight into these stretches. I hold them from anywhere between 30 secs to 1 minute.
After Surya Namaskar, I like doing a low lunge to high lunge flow ( 10 – 15 reps) and then spend some time in each pose. You can keep the arms by your side.
Utthan Pristhasana or Lizard Pose and variations
Lizard Pose is an excellent way to stretch the hip flexors, hamstrings, quads, and open the hips. You can start at a level that is comfortable for you. Try to hold the pose for at least 30 secs to 1 min. You can also rock back and forth while holding the pose. Start with the palm on the floor and slowly progress to deeper variations.
Half Twisted Lizard Pose
Another great stretch for the quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip flexors. Place a blanket or yoga block underneath your knee if you feel any discomfort.
Kneeling Quad Stretch or King Arthur Pose
Beginners might feel a little discomfort in the knee and quads. Use a wall or chair for support, place blocks/blankets underneath your knee. Start slow and with practice, your body will feel comfortable in the pose.
Utthita Trikonasana or Triangle pose
Triangle pose helps in stretching the leg muscles, strengthens spine and core muscles. Place blocks under your palms for support.
Parsvottanasana or Pyramid pose
Another wonderful pose that provides a deep stretch to your hamstrings, quads and spine.
Half Splits or runner’s lunge
Try to keep your spine straight in half splits. Use blocks for support. If you are flexible you can go lower by bringing your chin to your shin keeping the spine elongated. Or you can stay here and try to push the heel of your front feet towards the back to activate the hamstrings.
Uttanasana or Forward fold
Forward fold is an excellent pose to activate the legs. If your hamstrings are tight, bend your knees and try to elongate the back instead of curving it. You can also rest your palms on the block.
Prasarita Padottanasana I or Wide Legged forward fold
Practicing wide legged forward fold pose will help you to gain flexibility over time. Hinge from the hips, and use blocks to keep the back straight. If you are flexible, then you can try holding your ankles or keep the palms on the ground.
Supta Padangusthasana A or Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose
If you are unable to reach the ankles, a strap can help you with the stretch. Wrap a strap around your ankle and gently pull your leg towards you.
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana or Pigeon pose
Squaring the hips in the pigeon pose can be hard on the knees if your hips aren’t open. Personally, I try to keep my shin at a lower angle and my feet flexed to protect the knees. I can still feel the stretch in my hip flexors and quads.
To go into splits, from runner’s lunge or half-splits push your back leg away from the body. Remember to keep your hips square and your back knee pointing down towards the floor. Breathe naturally and try to relax your body. It is normal to feel a stretching sensation in hamstrings and groin muscles, but if you feel any kind of pain, please stop and adjust. Using yoga blocks can help you to support, align and hold the position for a longer time.
Below I am sharing my progress pictures over a year. I have done these stretches for splits and continue to include them in my yoga practice.
I should mention that I can place the pelvis on the ground in splits only after properly warming up the body and stretching. But I am extremely happy with the progress I have made so far.
After stretching, don’t forget to neutralize your body by spending some time in Pachimottanasana (Forward Fold), Gomukhasana (Cow face pose) and rest in Savasana.
I hope these stretches for splits help you in your journey.