• Strike A Pose: Hanumanasana (Yoga Splits!)

    Ready to stretch it out? Like really stretch it out?

    Well, here’s your online yoga opportunity to bend it like it's hot.


    Tune into Kino MacGregor’s free online yoga video demoing Hanumanasana - the Yoga Splits - a movement that is introduced in the Ashtanga Yoga Third Series and is meant as a preparation for deep backbends.

    In this online yoga video you will explore the traditional way to enter and exit the yoga splits in Ashtanga Yoga.

    Instead of just hanging out in the posture - as is oftentimes the case - you will practice the splits in combination with a full Vinyasa and conscious breathing.

    In doing so, you will build strength and structural integrity, cultivate a deep connection to your core, and create more openness in your hips to bring more energy into the pelvis.

    Be careful and conscious about over-stretching. Don't try this unless you are open enough and have enough body intelligence. If you are ready and open, don’t rush the process! Proceed cautiously and consciously without force or strain. And most importantly, keep breathing!


    ashtanga yoga video

    Image Credit: Full Splits via www.linneakrmr5.tumblr.com 

  • Strike A Pose: Hanumanasana with Xen Strength Yoga

    This week’s "Strike A Pose" yoga video is brought to you by Danielle Diamond, founder of Xen Strength Yoga. In this free online yoga video, Danielle will instruct the basic alignment principles of Hanumanasana or full splits. In this free online yoga video, you will learn various modifications and ways to mindfully warm up to this deep posture. So, grab two blocks and get ready to take a mighty leap into this beneficial asana.

    full splits in handstand

    Hanumanasana (Monkey Pose) Benefits:

    • Awesome therapy for sciatica pain reduction and prevention of sciatica.
    • Offers a great stretch for the hamstrings, groins and thighs.
    • Very stimulating to the abdominal organs.
    • Keeps the legs nice and supple, reducing your risk for injury during activities such as jogging, sprinting, cycling or climbing.
    • Opens up the hips and the groin regions, increasing your overall flexibility, balance and alignment.
    • Enhances the circulation of blood to all areas of the body, especially to the abdomen and skin. The increased blood flow boosts digestion, expels toxins from the body, and keeps you looking fly and fresh.
    • Relieves stress.
    • May cure insomnia.

    I know you want a piece of that, yogis! So, without further ado, hit the floor to explore this powerful asana and to tap into its strong, healing properties.

    xen strength yoga online

    If you dig Danielle Diamond’s online yoga video demoing Monkey Pose, you’ll definitely want to check out her complete collection of free yoga videos and full-length Xen Strength yoga classes.

  • The Paradox of Yoga

    Last week, I crafted a playful blog post entitled “The Get-Splits-Quick Solution,” highlighting my intention to master full Hanumanasana. Post blog, a comment (see below) surfaced that I found incredibly interesting – a comment that, subtly, sheds light on the paradox of yoga and life.

    The thing is, we all have a unique approach to the practice because we are all inherently and miraculously unique. Some of us are the go-getter Type A fanatics, while others, take on more of a go-with-the-flow, all-in-time approach. Some of us can't stop striving, while others are happy to surrender and take it “nice and easy, slow and steady.” Neither approach is better than the other. In fact, the differences in approach keep the practice interesting, leading to different styles and forms of yoga.

    But here’s why the comment inspired a response. Here’s the paradox of yoga. Yoga, like life, is filled with all of these seemingly contradictory intentions. The one I want to talk about is this: In yoga, there is this drive to never give up combined with this desire to always let go. In the practice, abhyasa is the never giving up component while vairagya, is the always letting go or “non-attachment” component. NEVER give up and ALWAYS let go. Equal part effort and ease. Simultaneous action and non-attachment. Hmmm…How does that work?

    effort and ease John Vitarelli in a pose of equal part effort (dedication) and ease (relaxation)...

    Sutra 1:12 "Both practice (abhyasa) and non-reaction (vairagya) are required to still the patterning of consciousness."

    Honestly, I’m not sure. I’d like to think that somehow we strike a balance or find some sort of happy medium (in yoga and in life). Truth is, the two opposing ideas work in concert with one another and yes, sometimes we fall on one end of the spectrum. I, for one, have a hard time letting go of attachment, be it to asana, a former lover, the past, etc. My practice has revealed that. Others however, have a hard time willing the car into drive and committing to action. But like I said, there is no right approach. I think all we can do is continue to get it less wrong.

    *** This comment may come across as a critique--I assure you it is not meant to be. In fact, I believe the reaction I'm having will inspire me to broaden my thinking about my practice, and perhaps even enrich it.

    I took my first yoga class almost 34 years ago, and mostly just dabbled in yoga--taking in the odd class here and there, but never having a personal practice, until 2010, when some health issues motivated to practice more seriously. Maybe because I started my practice so late in life (I'm 51 now) yoga has never been about getting really "bendy" (as Erich Schiffmann sometimes puts it). But I recognize that there are poses I do now that I avoided in the past, because they were too challenging. So there has been a kind of progression in my practice--but never with the kind of urgency, or even self-pressure, and accompanying frustration (the "sigh" for example) the author describes in her desire to master Hanumanasana.

    My approach with yoga has been "nice and easy, slow and steady." And maybe some would simply respond "Good for you, Prem! If that is how you practice, more power to you." But maybe I'm missing out on something by not actively pursuing, or working towards, poses that I (for sure) can't do today--like Tulasana, Hanumanasana, or Bakasana? 

    Thus far, beyond "pushing myself" to practice everyday, there hasn't been a whole lot of pushing involved. I'm not quite as "free" and spontaneous as Schiffmann's "freedom style yoga" - but I admire that approach. I feel and see myself progressing, despite not consciously holding some intention to do so. 

    I have some yoga friends who are almost competitive with each other on difficult poses when we practice together, and I tend to ignore them...but with an accompanying judgment that their good-natured "one-upmanship" might be "anti-" the "spirit of yoga" somehow--and I realize that I am probably full of it. Yoga isn't what I say it is, or should be. Yoga is vast, and can be many things to many different people, and many of these things can coexist peacefully and productively.

    So I'm invited some honest talk here. If you were to "pitch me" why I would want to "set goals" with my practice, given what you've heard thus far about my meandering, lazy, slow, but definitely steady (given I practice daily) approach, what would you say to me?


    Well my friend, I would say to you: Do what feels right for you. Follow your gut. Live your truth. Stay true to your practice. AND I would also urge you to think about the paradox of yoga – to recognize that there is this element of pushing yourself, of never giving up, and actively pursuing the practice. And, as you reveal, there is simultaneously the element of letting go and allowing things to naturally flow – the “freedom style yoga.” Both approaches, my dear yogi, are right; not only right, but required.


    Photo Credit: John Vitarelli of www.dhyana-yoga.com

  • The Get-Splits-Quick Solution


    I’m writing this post for you as much as I’m writing it for myself. The last time I was in full splits, I was holding poms poms. That was about 10 years ago. Oh, my youth.

    Anyways, I’ve been practicing yoga just about everyday for over a year now, and still have not realized the full split (Hanumanasana). Sigh. What’s taking so freaking long? I know, I know. Patience, patience. Practice, practice. I hear you loud and clear. Though recently, I experienced a revelation: What if yoga isn’t enough? More specifically, what if my current practice of yoga isn’t enough? This got me wondering – wondering if a slight shift in my split strategy was in order.

    So, I went digging - digging for answers. Do you dare to know what I conjured up in my quest for the full split? You may not like the answer. The truth is, yoga may not be enough. The truth is, the only way to leap effortlessly into the full split is via lots of stretching. You mean I won’t get full splits if I practice yoga for 1.5 hours per day 6 days a week? Yes, that’s precisely what I mean, provided you have not maintained your natural, youthful suppleness.

    So what’s the solution for us severely stiff beings? Read on, yogis.

    1. Practice Half Split. Duh. But I’m not talking the typical practice of half split. I don’t mean holding this pose for a mere 5 to 10 breaths. I’m talking 5 to 10 minutes. Each side. Hold on…don’t get all worked up just yet. You aren’t going to start there. Start at 1 to 2 minutes each side. Journey your way toward longer holds.
    2. Stretch daily. Get up and stretch for 15 minutes. Focus on stretches that target the hamstrings. Hanging forward fold. Half split. Also, focus on stretches that work the psoas, hip flexors, and quads. Lunge and lunge variations are awesome for this. Kneeling crescent (2 minutes per side) is a great beginning pose. Pre shut-eye, do another 15 minutes of stretching. In total, that’s 30 minutes of stretching per day. Can you and your stiff self handle it? Sure you can.
    3. Be consistent. Consistency is crucial. If you really want to realize the full split, you must devote heavy practice to it daily. No excuses.
    4. Warm up. Don’t crazily attempt to leap into the full split in heroic Hanuman style. Turn up the heat gradually. First, get those hamstrings loose and limber. Practice a hanging forward fold to awaken those testy, tight suckers. Set the timer for 1 to 2 minutes. And breathe. For guidance, tune into Sage Rountree's free online yoga video for athletes demoing a forward folding method to stretch all 3 parts of the hamstring.
    5. Don’t force it. When you are in your fullest expression of the full split, you do not want to feel any pain. Of course, you do want to feel a deep, strong stretch. The place where you experience this intense yet manageable stretch is your edge. When you reach your edge, relax. Set the time for 1 to 2 minutes. And breathe.
    6. Use support. I love using blocks and blankets to support my split and to promote deeper relaxation. There’s no shame in props, yogis! Another great support system is the wall. Practice standing split against the wall to work deeper and deeper into the pose. Again, hold your pose for 1 to 2 minutes per side. And breathe. Check out a free online yoga video with Kim McNeil for prop ideas and modifications and to discover an accessible place to work (and HOLD) this pose.

    There is a get-splits-quick scheme. It’s called stretching. LOTS of stretching. But the thing is, stretching is not enough if it does not come with strategy and consistency.

    So, if you truly aim to master Hanumanasana, join me in this strategic and steady split stretching spree. Take pictures of your daily split practice and progress. Keep a stretching journal. Do whatever it takes to keep you honest and on top of your Hanumanasana game. Here are some hashtag ideas for all you fellow Instagram junkies:

    #HanumanWannabes #SplitSpree #SplitsorBust

    To end, let us invoke Hanuman, the Monkey deity, to inspire and motivate us at the launch of this split undertaking.

    Om Hanumate Namah


    Photo Credit: Hanumanasana via _danielito's Instagram

  • Hamstrings Meet Hanumanasana

    If you’re battling super tight hamstrings, Hanumanasana (full splits) may feel like a long shot to you. I feel ya. However, instead of creating excuses or doubting your Hanumanasana potential, do the work. Throw those hamstrings into the fire. Toss them into an inferno of hamstring-opening poses and Hanumanasana variations. Challenge those testy, tight muscles to reach your full Hanumanasana potential. Show those hammies who’s boss. Hanumanasana

    To start the hamstring opening process, practice Cristi Christensen’s new Hamstring Opening Flow filmed at Exhale Spa. In this vinyasa slow flow, you will experience a variety of hamstring-opening poses. Start in a flowing standing sequence to warm up the body, followed by Sun Salutations and a series of targeted core work. Practice a grounding standing sequence with opportunities to try Eka Pada Koundinyasana II, Hanumanasana, and standing balance poses, such as Bird of Paradise and standing splits. End this lovely online yoga class with cooling backbends, restorative inversions, and hip openers. Bonus: Enjoy music provided by Shaman's Dream. (87 mins.)

    Hamstring-opening yoga video with Cristi Christensen

    If that’s too much fire for you, practice Joan Hyman’s Hanumanasana! Post Workout Stretch & Cool Down. This 30-minute online yoga sequence is designed as a cool down for runners, hikers, or any athlete looking to wind down and stretch out from intense physical activity. Post hip and hamstring stretching, you will move into the peak pose: Hanumanasana! Practice this online yoga video to stretch the psoas muscles, which can be overworked on athletes. As a restorative online yoga class, expect the focus to be on stretching; not vinyasa. (31 mins.)


    I can’t stress enough the importance of Hanumanasana. Mastery of this pose opens the door for a kick-ass inversion practice. Why? Think about it visually. When you have full splits, all you basically have to do is plant your hands (or forearms) on the ground, walk your feet in real close to your head (for any inversion), lift one leg, and (if you have full splits) you are essentially in the inversion (minus a leg). From this place, all you have to do is pick up the grounded leg to meet the lifted/extended one. This takes the oh-so-popular kicking-up-into-the-pose phenomenon out of the equation. Instead, provided adequate core strength, the lower leg floats up with ease and grace. That’s why a Hanumanasana practice is so helpful. It really does expand your access to a deeper, more intelligent inversion practice.

    Hanumanasana and Handstands From here, all she would have to do is place her hands down to prep for handstand. Then, she would be in the pose (minus a leg)! Lift that leg and BOOM: Handstand.

    Don’t put off your Hanumanasana practice. Start today! Start this second! Give those hammies a wake up call.


    Photo Credits: Wall Splits via www.califitcakes.tumblr.com & Standing Splits via Marc FotoGrafik Image

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