7 Yoga Poses That Will Help You Learn How to Do a Split
Is doing a full split on your yoga bucket list? Then you should be doing split stretches (aka stretches and poses that will help prepare your body for a split). As a certified yoga teacher for over 20 years, there are 7 yoga poses I swear by when it comes to learning how to do splits. These yoga poses focus on opening tight hips and hamstrings — two muscle groups you'll need to be super flexible in order to do a yoga split. How long will it take to do the splits? Well, every body is different. But if you practice these yoga poses several times a week, you'll be well on your way to mastering the splits.
Be sure to listen to your body and ease into these split stretches. Only go far enough to feel a deep stretch — you should never feel pain. To prevent pain and avoid injuring yourself, make sure you only stretch warm muscles; either do a quick warmup before you try these stretches, do them during your cooldown after a workout, or incorporate them into your yoga practice after your body is already limber and warm. And while you're doing these split stretches, don't worry if one side feels tighter than the other; that's totally normal.
Notice the progress you make each time you practice these poses, and you'll get closer to the ground every week. Keep at it consistently — try doing these stretches for splits three times a week — and you'll likely be able to do a split in no time.
How to Do a Split
Work through each of these yoga poses in order; they'll progressively stretch you more and more until you're ready to do a full split. To do some of these split stretches, you'll need to be near a wall and have a yoga block or folded blanket for support.
— Additional reporting by Alexis Jones
Yoga Split Stretch: Head to Knee
Here's a split stretch to work one hamstring at a time. You'll feel this in your lower back, too, and it'll also begin to open your hips.
- Sit on the floor with both legs extended in front of you. Bend your left knee and pull the sole of your foot against your right inner thigh.
- Reach your left hand to the outside edge of your right foot so you can stack your torso directly on top of your right leg. Bring your right hand to the arch of your right foot. If you can't reach your hands to your foot, then reach out as far as you can, resting your chest on your left thigh. Remember, the point here is to stretch your hamstrings, hips, and lower back, not to touch your foot.
- Stay here for five breaths, relaxing your shoulders away from your ears. Then do the other side.
Yoga Split Stretch: Tipover Tuck
This relaxing yoga pose is a great way to begin stretching both hamstrings at the same time while also increasing flexibility in your lower back. You'll also get a nice stretch in your chest and shoulders, which won't help with learning how to do splits but will definitely feel good.
- Begin standing with your feet hips-distance apart. Bring your arms behind you and interlace your fingers right below your sacrum (back of your pelvis). If you can, press the heels of your palms together in a double fist. Actively pull your hands away from your shoulders to increase the stretch in your chest.
- From here, lean your chest forward and lift your hands up overhead as you fold your torso toward your thighs. Keep both legs straight. Make sure you're lengthening through your spine by reaching the top of your head toward the floor.
- Stay like this for five breaths, and when you're ready to come out, actively press into your feet, engage your thighs, and slowly lift your torso back up to a standing position.
Yoga Split Stretch: Lizard
This hip flexor stretch will stretch you even deeper, helping you to get closer to doing a full split.
- Begin on your hands and feet in Downward Facing Dog. Step your right foot forward between your palms, as if you're going to come into Warrior 1, but keep your hands on the ground.
- Lower your left knee to the floor and release your elbows to the floor if you can. Either rest your hands palms facing down on the mat, or bring your hands together in a prayer position.
- Continue to squeeze your right knee toward your body and keep your gaze in front of you to encourage your hips to lower toward the floor.
- Hold here for five breaths, and then repeat on the left side.
Yoga Split Stretch: Standing Hand to Big Toe A
Here's a more intense vertical split stretch that allows you to use your upper-body strength to stretch your hamstring even more. Keep your lifted leg straight in order to effectively target the muscles in the back of the leg.
- Stand with your big toes touching. Put all your weight into your left foot and lift your right foot up. Bend your knee so you can hold on to your right foot with both hands. Keep your left leg straight.
- From here, work on straightening your right leg. Then if it's easy, pull your right thigh in toward your belly so your toes are pointing straight up.
- Try to lengthen through your spine, and tuck your tailbone in so your torso is in line with your standing leg. Hold for five breaths, then slowly release your right foot to the ground.
- Repeat this stretch on the other side.
Yoga Split Stretch: Seated Straddle
This yoga pose — which is basically a center split — will stretch both your hamstrings and your lower back. Since your legs are separated, it focuses more on the part of the hamstrings closest to your pelvis.
- Sit down with your feet about three to four feet apart (not as wide as you can go). Reach back with your right hand and move the flesh of your right bum cheek away from you, and then do the same with your left. This will help your pelvis ground more firmly so you can stretch your hamstrings more effectively.
- Sit tall, reaching your head away from your hips, and draw your belly and ribs in. Keep that length as you begin to fold forward at your waist, sliding your hands down your legs or on the floor in front of your head.
- Go down as far as you need to feel a stretch in your hamstrings, but you don't want to feel pain. Hold for five breaths.
Yoga Split Stretch: Standing Split
This vertical split stretch is great practice before doing a horizontal split. It will target the standing leg's hamstring while also stretching your hips.
- Begin in Standing Forward Bend. Inhale and shift weight into your left foot and your palms.
- Lift your right leg up as high as you can. Tuck your chin and draw your torso toward your left leg, breathing deeply and relaxing the shoulders away from the ears.
- Stay here for five breaths, then return your right leg to the floor.
- Stay here for a complete breath, and repeat this stretch with the right foot on the floor.
Yoga Split Stretch: Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
Flexible hamstrings aren't the only thing you need to learn how to do a split. Flexible hips and hip flexors are also a must and this kneeling hip flexor stretch can help. You can do this pose on a wall or reach your hands back to catch and hold your foot.
- If you have sensitive knees, fold up a towel and place it about eight inches away from a wall.
- Kneel down and place your left knee on the towel and your toes against the wall.
- Now place your right foot on the ground in front of you, and lower your hips until you feel a stretch in the front of your left hip. Make sure your right knee is directly above your ankle.
- Place your hands on your front knee to help keep your torso straight. Stay like this for five breaths. Then slowly release and do this stretch on the other side.