Hanumanasana or Monkey pose, is the yogic name to the famous front splits: a beautiful posture that requires dedication, flexibility and patience.
Hanuman the Monkey God was the son of Vayu, the God of the Winds. He was famous for his impressive and powerful leaps, as he was able to jump over incredibly long distances.
His most famous jump involved his good friend King Ram. An evil demon called Ravana kidnapped King Ram’s beloved, Sita. King Ram entered a war with Ravana’s army, who were trying to take over his kingdom. As he had to defend his people from this great danger, he could not rescue Sita, and gave his trust to Hanuman to bring her back. The Monkey God took a gigantic leap from South India to Sri Lanka, rescued Sita and came back to fight for Ram to help him win back his kingdom.
He showed incredible devotion to his friend, great courage and achieved a very difficult mission.
Hanumanasana represents this prowess; stretching the legs as Hanuman did in his incredible jump, and accomplishing a very difficult task, as the full front splits is a challenging posture to achieve.
How to practice Monkey Pose:
(Please proceed carefully and slowly. Back off at the sign of any pain, and consult your health practitioner before starting any new movement practice)
To get into full front splits you will need flexibility in your legs, especially hamstring and quads, and mobility in yours hips. Make sure you are warm enough to attempt this pose. I personally like using blocks, as you will see in the photos, in order to stay in alignment and enter the pose slowly and safely.
Step 1: Half Splits
Half splits is a good preparation to get into the full version of the pose. Start by prepping yourself with the back leg bent and the front leg straight, hips are square, and your weight is balanced between both legs. Activate your straight leg by flexing the foot, pushing away with your heel and bringing the toes towards you. I recommend holding there for a bit, gently bringing your torso closer to your front leg, but always keeping your back lengthening.
Step 2: Low crescent
From half splits, move your front foot further away from you and gently bend your front leg. Let your hips drop towards the ground but keep them square. I have seen in my classes several students bringing their torso forward while moving into that shape, and I do recommend - as shown in the photo - that you keep the shoulders aligned with the hips. That way you are bringing weight onto your hips, which will help getting them closer to the ground. If this is intense already, stay and hold, taking some long deep breaths.
Step 3: Extend both legs
You can repeat step 1 and 2 several times until you make your way to step 3. Try to keep your hips square here, and not let yourself fall to one side. The blocks will be of helpful in this step! Your torso stays in a similar position, always aligned with your hips. Hold here for several breaths, maybe you will find that some more space becomes accessible, or maybe you'll feel that you will not be going further for that practise. If it's the latter, place a block under your front thigh and hold for a bit longer, trying as much as you can to relax.
Step 4: Hanumanasana pose
Helen is a performer and a Yoga teacher. She teaches Vinyasa Flow, Yin, and Meditation in Paris. Her classes are catered for busy city lifestyle people who need to reconnect with themselves in movement as well as in stillness. She regularly leads workshops and retreats, find more about her work at www.helenwatkins.yoga and follow her yogic journey on instagram @LnWatkins