Visual Yoga Blog: The Assisted Splits

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Recently I discussed Doing the Splits, The Easy Way

Being able to do the splits always seems like one of the hallmarks of flexibility: for some it’s something to strive toward; for others, it seems about as possible as crossing your legs behind your neck.

With the Assisted Splits, there’s a way to make the impossible a little more possible.

You need 3 props of different heights for this. Examples are a rolled-up yoga mat, a yoga block, and either a shorter-height yoga block, or, in this example, a ball.

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1. Sit on the floor with your legs positioned wide as pictured. Take a rolled-up yoga mat and lean your forehead on it while keeping your back straight and hinging at your hips. If this position is already outside your range of possibilities right now, then reference Doing the Splits, the Easy Way for a better way to get started on the splits. However, if you are able to come into this position, then stay here, with your forehead supported, for the space of 10 slow breaths.

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2. The subsequent steps are just a variation on the first one. After your hamstrings have had the chance to acclimate to the first position, then substitute the mat with a block, as pictured. Same guidelines: back straight, hinging at the hips, not forcing and simply waiting patiently for more relaxation to build in the hamstrings. Spend anywhere between 10 and 20 slow breaths in this position.

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3. If your body is up for it, go deeper, supporting the weight of the upper body on the forehead either with a shorter-height block or with a soft ball, as pictured. Spend 10-20 slow breaths in this position.

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4. If after this slow, gradual approach your hamstrings, hip joints and back feel ready to advance more, then walk your hands farther out in front of you and bring your chest and abdomen onto the floor as pictured. Stay for a minimum of 5 slow breaths.

Benefits: As with any splits, this is a fantastic releaser of hamstrings, low back and hip joint tension. This approach has the specific advantage of letting you progress faster into the position because your body has an easier time relaxing into stretch when it’s supported.

Avoid if: Bear in mind that if you are able to get to the first step, it may be the extent of what your body can do for right now… and that step 1 is where you stop; repeat on a daily basis until the subsequent steps are doable without pain or discomfort. So if you experience pain or discomfort in any of these steps, back off the intensity of the stretch until the pain/discomfort disappears. Then stay there, breathing at the edge of a comfortable stretch. If you cannot get to any point in this practice where you do not experience pain, then check my other poses for ideas of other things you can do now that are gentler on your body.

Final thoughts: It’s been suggested that the final prop is a big lump of chocolate placed at mouth level on the floor. The person who came up with this variation eventually became really good at the splits, but also really fat.

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