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used - sukasana.jpg




Filtering by Tag: yoga props

Hanumanasana (for people not flexible enough to do the splits)

Olivia Marley

We've been looking at hanumanasana or the splits a bit in class recently. This is one of the few postures where I think using the English name of the pose can sometimes put people at a disadvantage: everyone has seen gymnasts or dancers on the TV doing the splits, so think that's what this posture should look like. And since most people aren't ex-gymnasts, that means for a lot of people:

  • the splits immediately feels unobtainable and they tell themselves they already know they can't do it

  • they focus on the mental picture they have of what the splits should look like, and feel defeated/ disappointed/ annoyed when their body doesn't match it

  • because of the above, they never actually work on this posture so miss out on all the benefits it brings (loads of hip and lower body opening, plus a feeling of empowerment once you reach your arms up for the full posture)

  • their mental image of the splits is so dominant they don't listen to their body and force it into shapes it's not ready for, even if that's something they'd never dream of doing in other postures.

Basically, this posture can definitely bring up some stuff for people! So instead of working on 'the splits' we've been working on optimal alignment in 'hanumanasana' (aka posture dedicated to Hanuman). And more specifically, 'hanumanasana for people that aren't flexible enough to do the splits'. 

If you had to pick just two postures to warm up for hanumanasana it's got to be the two shown below: anjaneyasana or low lunge, and ardha hanumanasana or half splits. They warm up the back leg and front leg respectively. 

In low lunge (picture 1): as you inhale think upper body tall. As you exhale lift lower belly muscles strongly in and up (that will help you get a more effective stretch in the front of your back leg hip). Notice how your pelvis twists a little towards your back leg. And resist that by bringing your back hip (which in the photo is my left) a little forwards. After a few breaths see if you can lunge deeper on an exhale. 

In ardha hanumanasana (picture 2): rather than rounding through your upper back to get your chest towards your leg, instead push your front heel straight down into the floor. Then isometrically (ie without actually moving it) drag your front heel towards you. Pull your front (here, my right) hip back and move your back hip a little forwards, and stick your tailbone out behind you. 

Then try sliding your front heel forwards until it can't go any further (picture 3). This is often where people stop when working with hanumanasana. Notice if all of the sensation is in the hamstrings of your front leg, with very little feeling in your back leg. If so, know that is completely normal but ideally this posture is about both legs equally. 

So to shift some of the demand into your back leg, try bending your front knee and letting your hips drop a little lower towards the floor (picture 4). Then maybe you will also feel a stretch in the front of your back leg hip. Take a breath or two there then see if that has created space for you to slide your front heel a little further forwards. Keep on cueing yourself to draw your front hip a little bit back and your back hip forwards - don't let your pelvis twist towards your back leg. As with every other yoga posture, don't sacrifice the integrity of the pose (ie keeping your hips square) for range of motion (aka taking your legs further apart). 

Once you've reached your limit, grab some support and place it under the top of your front thigh (so not under your bum, under the top of your hamstrings). I've used a block (in the picture at the top of this blog post) but you can use whatever you have to hand to give you as much height as you need. So maybe a bolster, or a pyramid of 3 bolsters stacked on top of each other; a stack of books, one or many firm pillows. Whatever works! Whatever it is, make sure it's stable. Then walk your arms back in towards you and reach them up to the sky. Take a few breaths here: feel your front leg, feel your back leg, and feel upper body reaching up through centre. Then bring your hands to the floor, wriggle out of the posture, and repeat on the second side. 

And ask if you have any questions! 🙏🏼✌🏼


Olivia Marley

Regulars to my classes or workshops will be very familiar with this: the supta padangustasana or hand to big toe series. It helps you access the muscles on the back, inside and outside of your leg/hip. 

To practise this at home you don't need a proper yoga strap. You can use a dressing gown (or normal clothes) belt, a scarf, towel or pretty much anything you have to hand. One really common issue with this posture is that when people (including me) take their top leg wide (ie top right photo) they find it really difficult to keep the bottom one anchored down. If the bottom leg lifts in this position then the action of taking the top leg wide is going to come less from motion in that leg, and more from the pelvis tipping to one side. So you won't be getting much of a stretch along the inside of your top leg because your pelvis is just tilting to the side. 

There's an easy way to stop that happening. Say you're starting with your right leg: lay on the floor with both legs straight. Take your hand to your right hip and find the bony part at the side, at the widest part of your hip (anatomy fans: this is your greater trochanter). Put a yoga block on the floor next to you, snugly up against that bony part on the right side of your hip. Probably most comfortable will be one of the flatter blocks, but if not a brick block will work too. And if you don't have blocks try a firm cushion, or a rolled-up towel, or a book (whatever you have nearby!). Leaving that support where it is, bring your right knee into your chest, place your strap around the ball (widest part just below your toes) of your right foot and take that leg up to the ceiling. Then take that top leg out to the right. Notice how the support next to your right hip helps stop the weight of that leg pulling your pelvis off centre. And if your pelvis can stay square, the motion will be coming more from your leg and you may find you get a more effective stretch on your inner thigh. Most people also find that being able to relax into the support by their hip means they can hold the posture a little longer too. 

There's also a simple way to deepen the stretch in the bottom right photo. Say you have the strap in your left hand and are taking your right leg across your body (as I am in the photo). Take your right thumb into your right hip crease, so below the bony part at the front of your hip and just where the top of your leg joins your torso.  Your thumb is right at the very top of your leg and your fingers wrap around towards your bum. Use that hand to move your hip away from you. And rather than just pushing with your hand, instead think roll your outer hip down and away from your face. The hand holding the strap makes sure that your foot doesn't move away from your face at the same time. It's a reasonably strong movement with your right hand (within reason, obviously!). And remember: don't just push with that hand; roll your outer hip down and away from you. 

See how these adjustments work for you and send us a message if you have any questions! 


Olivia Marley

We've been having a look at half moon pose or ardha chandrasana recently. Despite appearing relatively simple there's quite a lot going on in this posture: balance to stand on one leg; hip strength to lift the top leg; core strength to keep your torso lifted; flexibility to be able to turn your top toes out and reach the floor with your bottom hand.... the list goes on. My regular students know that I'm very keen on using props if they can help you get more from a pose, and this is one of those postures that a block can often really help with.

To get into half moon pose start with your legs in a warrior 2 stance (if you're not sure what that looks like, have a look here). If that, or any of the following steps don't work for your body: back off. If not, and if your right leg is in front (which it is for me in the photos above):

  • step your left foot towards your right to shorten your stride
  • take your left hand on to your left hip, and your right fingertips to the floor a decent step in front of your right little toe
  • shift your weight on to your front (ie right) leg, so much that your back leg can lift
  • keep your standing leg bent a little as you stack your left hip on top of your right. Lift your top leg and turn it out so that your toes are pointing out to the side rather than to the floor
  • turn your chest up to the ceiling and draw your top shoulder back
  • straighten your bottom leg
  • lift your top arm straight up, with palm facing the same way as your chest
  • depending on how it feels on your neck: look down to the floor, out to the side or up towards your top hand.

In the top photo above I'm demoing a (perhaps slightly exaggerated - but not much!) version of this posture that people can find themselves in when they first give it a try. Notice how in an effort to get my bottom hand to the floor I've had to turn my chest and top shoulder down to the floor. This in turn makes it difficult to stack my top hip on top of my bottom hip, and therefore also to lift my top leg. In the bottom photo above, I'm using a block to bring the floor a little towards me. It's helped me keep my chest from turning down to the floor, and therefore also to stack my hips on top of each other and get more lift in my back leg. 

I'm not sure why some people don't like to use props. Maybe they think it means they aren't as good at yoga, or as the other people in the room who aren't using a block? I use them all the time, and am happy to use anything to hand that'll help me get more from my yoga practice. Why struggle without a prop if one can transform the effect a posture has on your body? Anyway, that's just my personal view. You can judge for yourself from the photos whether you think my half moon pose looks like it feels better with or without a little extra lift under my bottom hand!