Hanuman Asana also known as Front Splits in English is a very advanced posture. This asana is named after the position that lord Hanuman used to take a long leap from India to Srilanka as per the famous mythological scripture Ramayana. To take this leap, lord Hanuman took a leg forward and the other leg back was straight backward which resembles the famous front splits. This is an advanced asana that demands a lot of flexibility in the hip flexor as well as extensor muscles, pelvic floor muscles as well as leg muscles, especially hamstrings and quadriceps. In the fullest form of this asana, the legs are in a full split position with one leg straight in front of the torso and the other leg behind the torso making sure that the hips are squared and hands placed on either side or stretching up joining palms (Anjali mudra) above the head or in front of the chest. Other common names of Hanumanasana in English are monkey pose (as lord Hanuman resembles the monkey), Seated splits or splits. As per Iyenger Yoga standards, this posture is rated as a very advanced and high-intensity one.
Hanumanasana works on activating and opening the Muladhara chakra (root chakra) and Svadhisthana (sacral chakra) which helps to stay grounded, bring that inner peace and stability and works to promote focus, concentration and acceptance. It is fascinating how gravity supports going all the way down, but the stiffness of muscles and sometimes the limited range of motion restricts the movement. This is the time when one has to be more flexible with the mind to have complete acceptance of the current situation in the posture instead of comparing and complaining and eventually getting injured. Only once there is complete acceptance, the posture will start getting better.
As this posture is completely passive with gravity working on pulling us down, it is very important that one should not go beyond the range of motion as gravity has no intelligence of your range of motion or muscle flexibility, so make sure you are not too harsh on your body while performing this posture. So, ensure that the preparatory postures are performed before you get into this. You can always design an hour-long vinyasa sequence preparing for this posture and in the end, hold this posture for as long as possible. Remember to be patient as only then you will be able to see the real progress.
Preparation for Hanumanasana
To prepare for any Asanas first it is important which muscle or group of muscles need flexibility, so they then become the target muscles for the entire sequencing. For this posture, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and hip flexors (psoas major) demands a major amount of flexibility. Below are some of the postures that can be performed to prepare the body for front splits
- Hatha Surya Namaskar: A couple of rounds of Hatha Surya Namaskar would be a great warm-up for this posture. This will work on the flexibility and strength of the hip flexors.
- Low lunge variations: A couple of variations in low lunge will be great to work on the flexibility as well as strength of the leg muscles. For example go to low lunge, straighten the front leg and front forward to feel that deep stretch in the front leg hamstrings. To get a more active relaxation of hamstrings, lift the front leg off the floor and stay there for 8 to 10 counts after which drop the front leg down and try to slide the front leg forward. Similarly, come back to the low lunge position and give a bit of active relaxation to the back leg by lifting the knee off the floor and staying here for 8-10 counts. After this drop the knee down and try to slide the back leg back as much as possible. Repeat these movements with the front leg and back leg for a couple of rounds.
- High lunge variations: High lunge is also a very good posture to work on active movements. One can get into a high lunge position with both hands raised up and lean towards both sides to get the hip flexor and extensors contracting.
- Pigeon pose variations : This is a great hip opener posture. Try to do variations by folding forward and turning towards the right and left with a forward fold. You can bend the back leg and bend back into raj kapotasana to give that deep quad opening of the back leg.
Repeat all the above postures with both sides so you work on the flexibility of both legs.
Steps to do Hanumanasana
- Start with a downward facing dog (Adho mukha svanasana). Take some deep breaths here and lift your right leg up and stay here for 5 counts.
- Bring the right foot in between your palms drop the left knee down and come to a low lunge position.
- Now slowly first straighten your front leg and bend forward over the front leg then bend the right knee back to its previous position and try straitening the left leg while gently bending backward.
- Now straighten the front completely and push the back leg backward to straighten the back leg and touch the thigh on the floor.
- Make sure the hips are squared and you are not leaning on the right side.
- If you are not able to go all the way down, then place a block under the groin area to get support.
- With this variation if you can keep your hands down touching the mat on either side of your legs till the time you find your balance
- Once you find the balance, raise both hands up and join your palm or just join the palm in front of the chest.
- Lean forward and place your palms down on both sides of the shin bone, lift your hips up, bend your right leg, tuck the left toe and take your right leg all the way back and come to downward facing dog
- Repeat this with the left leg to balance and for symmetry
- This is an advanced posture and is intense on the hamstring, so make sure your forward and backward bends are good else it could overstretch the muscles.
- Like every other asana practice, a good warm-up before doing the posture will be very beneficial
- You can also do a backbend in Hanuman asana as variation, make sure the lower back is safe and feels no compression.
- People with hamstring injuries should not do this pose.
- This asana provides a great stretch to the hamstring muscles and quads and psoas the hip flexors and improves hip mobility.
- Hip flexor muscle especially the Psoas muscle is also known as storage of emotion, stretching allows a person to be emotionally stable.
- This also works to improve knee mobility and strength
Make sure that you don’t lose your breath while performing this posture as you will find your “Sthira Sukham Asana” only when you have calm breath and a relaxed body. So, make sure you perform enough drills before you try to hold it for a couple of breaths. This posture is a great stretch for runners and marathoners, as it will help to give that relaxation to both.