Standing Splits | Adaptive Yoga | Blocks

Alan stands in Standing Splits with his Right Leg Raised behind his body. He uses a cork block to support his body.

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Alan demonstrates Standing Splits while also teaching the importance of drawing the core in and pointing the toes toward the ground. His left leg is firmly planted, his right leg is raised and his right arm reaches out to a cork yoga block to support his pose.
Alan demonstrates drawing the core in and pointing the toes down during Prop-Supported Standing Splits .

Trainer’s Notes:

Please talk to your doctor about whether you are healthy enough to begin physical activity before you do so. You assume all risk in beginning and performing various exercise movements.

Adaptive Yoga is an important skill for everyone to know as they approach their yoga practice because it can influence how you provide support for your body. Often times, I feel so stubborn when I am practicing: I need to look good without props. But adding in some blocks to your practice can really change things up.

This particular pose is about a little challenging pose we know of as Standing Splits. Standing Splits, or Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana, is a little challenging if a practitioner has any spinal issues, low back (lumbar spine) issues, trouble with the Hamstrings and/or the Gluteal Muscles, or otherwise if the practitioner has issues with blood pressure. Because of the movement of the head below the waist and the counter pose where the practitioner returns to half-lift, this move can sometimes cause a little dizziness. If any of these problems occurs, it might be a great time to check in with your physician to ensure that physical activity is right for you, or if there is a particular form of exercise more suited to your body.

You can see my review of cork blocks vs. foam blocks vs. bamboo blocks.

Standing Splits – Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana

Alan demonstrates Standing Splits assisted by two cork yoga blocks under his hands. His right foot presses into the earth his left leg is in the air.
Alan demonstrates Standing Splits assisted by two cork yoga blocks under his hands. His right foot presses into the earth his left leg is in the ai

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Standing splits can be one of the most strengthening yoga poses we embrace in our practice every day. This is because it requires you to engage the core, the whole of the leg, and the gluteal muscles in order to point the toes down to the earth. For this reason alone, it is a fairly superior movement.

It is also a forward fold. Forward folds are great at targeting the throat chakra. The openness it provides brings about a sensation of cleansing breath when I am able to find an adequate forward fold. This emphasis on the throat chakra during standing splits allows us to notice how forward folds can be so impactful.

Press all four corners of the right foot and all the toes

into the ground as you start to feel weightlessness in the left.

Inhale as you draw the left leg up keeping the toes

and the knees pointed down toward the Earth.

It is important to keep in mind, this pose may not be for everyone and that is okay. Check out our Adaptive Yoga page. If you are able to draw it up only slightly, that is okay too! You are enough, no matter how far you can get your leg up in this fairly challenging pose. Regardless, keep trying every chance you get. You can see how much Alan’s standing splits have improved over the course of our videos on the Broz Fitness YouTube Channel.

Benefits of Standing Splits

In short, this pose is great for opening the Throat Chakra and promotes strengthening the muscles of the leg. Moreover, this pose helps promote balance. I frequently use blocks in this pose because it helps me feel like I am getting enough space to draw my leg up. Throughout the last few months, you can absolutely see how it’s impacted my Standing Splits.

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A Splits Practice

Alan teaches a yoga class intending to promote openness in the body.

How I teach Standing Splits with Blocks

I typically teach this pose after we are all warmed up. One of the better times for this pose is likely when a teacher feels it’s time to get into chair pose. This could be during the Sun Salutation B warm-up. I would add that one of the more important things to keep in mind, and the purpose of this post, is that I have been using yoga blocks when coming in and out of this pose. I have been intently working on this pose for the last few months and I still love the lengthening sensation I find when I use yoga blocks. Moreover, because the pose provides lengthening, it’s not until the end of the practice that I eventually will try to remove the blocks. I would like to see my leg raise a little more; however, once the leg comes above the hips, it becomes almost necessary to begin to hinge from the hips and embrace this pose’s forward fold movement.

I think standing splits is better because it provides a gluteal muscle focused movement rather than a chair pose which largely targets the quads and the gluteal muscles. Although it sounds beneficial that a chair pose would provide quadriceps and gluteal muscle engagement, the quadriceps focus puts the gluteal muscles at a disadvantage. See Contreras, Glute Lab. To alleviate potential muscle imbalances caused by chair pose, we can use standing splits poses and variations to find more leg engagement. You can also do a feel similar sensations when you do a one-legged downward-facing dog. 

Poses to How I Typically Warm-Up Standing Splits

  1. Cat/Cow
  2. Warm-Up Bend
  3. Warm-Up Twist
  4. Tadasana
  5. Half-Lift
  6. Forward Fold
  7. Sun Salutation A
  8. Warrior 1 or Crescent Lunge
  9. Warrior 2 if I need a little more movement.

Conclusion

We will all get old over time. This keeps a constant pressure in me to find ways into poses that provide us a safe alternatives built upon more traditional movements and practices. Even Iyengar noticed this as he continued to find adaptations that get us into poses. Iyengar did so because he found himself getting older and found his body could not do the same movements as he was able to before. Even if we’re otherwise perfectly healthy, learning safe alternatives to more traditional poses will come in handy one day. You can see more adaptive yoga at the Adaptive Yoga page or check out the posts below!

I wrote this post with (sponsored link) Grammarly. You can see my review of Grammarly here.