How to do the Splits

Dear Yoga Student,

I’d like to talk to you full frontal and side splits because I’ve been getting a bunch of questions about them lately.

So here’s the scoop:

1. Frontal splits are pretty easy to learn in 2-8 weeks

2. Side splits are much more complicated and some people’s bodies just don’t move that way

Frontal spits involve two big groups of muscles:
* Hamstrings (back the legs)
* Iliopsoas (top of the thigh and deep pelvis)

Here’s why frontal splits are easier: every time you stretch your hamstrings or the tops of your legs, you’re preparing for the frontal splits, so almost everyone who stretches is accidentally getting better at the frontal splits whether they know it or not!

Side splits involves the same muscle groups as frontal splits, but also your groin and glutes… plus it’s just really awkward – and no other stretches seem to have much of an effect…

… meaning to learn the side splits, you’ve got to do the side splits. A lot!

So what do you do? Practice. Carefully.

The frontal splits is perhaps one of the deepest hamstring stretches of all. Every hamstring stretch helps prepare you for this pose, but it’s also good to practice this pose by itself since it’s very powerful.

Remember, with your full body weight hovering over your hamstrings, it’s very easy to push too far here. So please be careful and follow my guidance closely so you stay safe.

Let’s start together on our knees…

Extend your right leg forward and flex the toes out in front of you on the mat.

Very slowly and carefully, slide your right forward until you feel some resistance.

Once you start to feel a stretch in your hamstring, you need to get your fingertips firmly planted into the floor or else on top of a block.

We’ll use our hands for support to control the weight and pressure on our hamstring so it’s never too much.

You want to feel a strong stretch—but no pain. You should be able to breathe deeply and comfortably in and out through the nose the entire time, and engage your quads to protect your hamstring.

Your hamstrings are actually a group of big muscles on the back of your leg and they’ll loosen up quickly, even as we’re practicing now.

As you feel your hamstring loosen, slide your heal a bit more forward and flex you toes and support yourself with your fingertips.

Take at least 20 breaths here before switching sides. Please feel free to post questions or comments below…

Engaging your thigh allows the back of the leg to release more and also protects you from dropping down too quickly.

In the side splits, micro-bend your knees so you don’t tweak them and use your hands on the floor to support your body weight.

In both versions, you want to use your breath as a guide. Start with 20 breaths/day and build up from there, eventually to 5 minute holds
(5 minutes is the magic number).

A little soreness is good. Pain is bad. People hurt themselves all the time trying to hurry into the
splits. It’s no use. Take your time, breathe deeply, and honestly, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll progress…

… but don’t try any John Travolta stuff on the dance floor until you’re feeling REALLY loose:)

No, seriously…

Stay bendy,