POSE OF THE MONTH: Full Splits
If you plan to teach Full Splits, you may not want to announce that at the beginning of class! Or, if you do, be prepared for mixed reactions from your students—from excitement to apprehension to full-on anxiety. Instead, talk about hip extension and flexion, which is a less intimidating place to start. Introducing the following prep poses and cues will help students approach Full Splits with a little more ease and confidence.
Main elements of Full Splits:
Pelvic floor strength
Most Challenging Elements:
Rounding through the spine
Continuing the breath
Begin class with the Standing or Supine Warm-Up and a few Sun Salutations to warm the body. Throughout Mountain 2, explore the following to prepare the body for Full Splits. Give your students two or three opportunities to investigate some of the deeper poses so they can work into their full range of motion.
Awaken the Hips
After a few Warrior poses on each side, deepen into the hips by working through a Crescent Lunge on each side. Crescent Lunge demands that the body be active to support the balance of the pose and allows students to begin working deeper into the flexibility of the hips. Cue Root Lock (Mula Bandha or Pelvic Floor Lift) here, stressing that establishing a connection with the pelvic floor will make Full Splits easier to achieve. Practice Crescent Lunge two or three times, encouraging students to hold the pose a little longer each time so they can discover how their hips feel in deeper variations.
Move on to Low Lunge. Allow the hips to reach more deeply towards the floor, while lifting through the heart center to create space throughout the spine. Finding the place where the hips reach open while the spine lifts tall will set the stage for good posture in Full Splits. Gently lifting the pelvic floor muscles allow for the deeper release of the hip flexors. Be sure to cue for students to lift through the abdominals, supporting the pelvic girdle in a neutral position to protect the lower back. The best variation for our purposes today is with the body lifting tall away from the mat, spine extending. Let students know that we will be using this tall posture for the next pose.
Make It Happen!
Remind your students to notice how their hips are feeling and to only stretch as far as they can and still retain excellent posture. Everyone will need one folded blanket (positioned on the floor, in front of their mat) and two blocks. Cue your students to come into a Kneeling Low Lunge (with the back knee and foot resting on the floor). Have students place their front heel on the blanket. Holding one block in each hand lengthwise, invite them to SLOWLY slide the front heel forward. As soon as the blocks can touch the floor, set them down and press the hands into them, transferring the body’s weight into the arms. Pausing here, adjust as needed to find that tall posture where the shoulders are aligned over the hips. Continue to slide the front heel forward until the desired stretch is reached. This may require multiple adjustments of the blocks (turning them horizontal, or flat; bringing them forward as the body moves forward). Once students feel a good, well-supported stretch, cue the pelvic floor lift. As students engage this lift, many may find a little more stretch in the pose.
Pay Attention to the Breath
Encourage them to continue breathing deeply and evenly. If their breathing feels jagged or frantic, remind them they are diving too deeply and to release the stretch a little bit or come out of the pose entirely.
As students are ready, allow them to gently come out of the pose by drawing the front foot back toward the body, shifting the body’s weight into the back knee. They may then step the front foot back and press back into Child’s Pose for a few breaths. Repeat on the second side.
Preparation is Key
When students are well prepared and given proper tools, even the most intimidating poses become less scary and more approachable. This sequence, propping, and cueing set students up for success and encourages them to be able to try something they never thought possible!