The Splits Lite…Or, how to do the splits without even trying.
The splits: the archetypal yoga position ensconced next to lotus pose in its quasi-mythical representation of yoga.
We want it, and we want it now. But wait, what if “now” doesn’t seem forthcoming any time soon? What if you sit down, manage to extend your legs out to the side and exclaim the name of some religious figure not as an invocation for help but as an imprecation that this is the end of the road for your abilities?
That’s when The Splits Lite comes in.
It provides the majority of the stretch that the splits promise… and it’s a good interim step to arriving at the actual full pose—in three, practically two, easy steps. You need a belt or yoga strap for this.
1. Sit on the floor, extend your legs out to the side, grab your strap, raise it overhead and lean forward from your hips while sending your arms back. Let me repeat that leaning forward here is specific to hinging at your hips, not by caving through your upper body: as I often say, we already know how to slouch; we don’t need a special yoga class to help us with that.
2. Now, rather than leaning additionally forward and eventually to the ground, where the real splits take us, lean your upper body toward one foot, as pictured. Just exhale and gently lean to the side while still leaning forward. Don’t force it: just go wherever your body lets you go for right now.
3. Don’t hold the position. Instead, when you’re ready to inhale, come back up through center and, exhaling, lean over toward the other foot.
Repeat, going side to side slowly and with the movement of your (very slow) breath, 10 to 20 times. You may notice that as you go slowly like this, your hamstrings and lumbar spine begin to loosen, and reaching each foot and leaning forward becomes easier.
If at some point your body feels malleable enough to follow through with the real splits (and by “at some point” I don’t necessarily mean after you do this once for twenty times), here’s more on how to get to the full splits.
Benefits: A relaxed, playful way to get your body to relax and be playful in the splits, as opposed to the sometimes less than loving and white-knuckled way in which we subject our dear body to yoga positions. You’ll also loosen tight hamstrings and low back, open up your shoulders, counter the tendency to close in on your chest, and cement your realization that this whole yoga thing is a journey and not a destination.
Avoid if: Your current journey is making you suffer, and you don’t see a destination absent of that suffering. Seriously, if even arriving at the first position above feels like you’re subjecting your body to torture, then try it with a bolster underneath your sitting bones (it’ll help you lean forward while keeping your back straight); if the aforementioned bolster still doesn’t do the trick or diminish discomfort, then choose other positions before working your way up to this.
Final thoughts: This position is actually a fantastic stretch and resetter from all the hamstring and lumbar compression we engage in while sitting for long periods of time. I say “we” because I’m assuming you’re not reading this in the Kalahari desert and hence did not sit still for the last eight hours, sat while in some form of transportation on your way home, and couldn’t wait to sit when you got home to have dinner.
No; if you’re reading this in the Kalahari desert, you’re either chasing or being chased by your dinner, which means your hamstrings and lumbar spine are as long and as pliable as they need to be.
Let that be a lesson to us all.
Author: Ricardo das Neves
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photos: Author’s Own