Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana: Standing Splits Pose
This is a great pose for practicing balance and increasing flexibility in the hamstrings. The Standing Splits pose, or “Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana” (oord-vah pra-sa-REE-tah ee-kah pahd-AS-ana) in Sanskrit, is less about form and much more about sensation. An effective way to strengthen your entire lower body, Standing Splits also helps stabilize the hips and pelvis, making it a great pose for building a solid foundation for your asana practice.
Philosophy + Origin
A variation on Hanumanasana, Front Splits pose, Standing Splits requires many of the same physical attributes and awareness. However, its balancing nature requires something more to think about. Hanuman, the monkey god whose leap to save Sita, then find a life-giving herb, is able to achieve such feats because of his dedication and love. Hanuman’s intense effort is tempered by his good nature and intention. This version of the splits asks you to be physically challenged, but to respect where you are and why you are here. Think of your lifted leg as an opportunity to strive and your lower leg as a reminder to be patient with your capacity in this moment.
- Place two blocks under your hands to help stretch your legs while keeping the spine long.
- Put the sole of your lifted foot against a wall for more stability.
CONTRAINDICATIONS AND CAUTIONS:
- Hamstring, knee or foot injury
- Lower back injury
At first glance, this pose may seem intimidating. But know that if the splits, let along standing splits, are far from your current reality, this pose is still within reach. Rather than focusing on how high you can lift your leg, bring your attention to the stretch you’re experiencing, especially in your quadriceps and hamstring muscles. Finding length and enjoying that expansion, rather than worrying about how the outward form, is a great way to introduce yourself to Standing Splits.
- Begin in Warrior II with your right leg forward. As you inhale, reach your left arm up over your head to create space along the left side of your body. As you exhale, lift your left heel off the floor, pivoting your torso slightly to the right. Bring your weight forward and settle your chest onto or just above your right thigh.
- Place your hands on the floor or blocks, framing your right foot. Bring your hands forward until your weight shifts to your right foot. With an inhalation, press into your right foot and straighten the leg. At the same time, lift your left leg level with the ground. Find stability in your pelvis by bringing the inner left thigh down towards the mat.
- Bring your awareness to your right leg, paying attention to your kneecap to ensure that it faces directly forward — not rotating inward. Practice the action of “root and rebound” by pressing down through your right leg so that you can extend out and up through your left leg. Exertion should be equal in both legs.
- As your leg lifts out and up, your torso should move as well, moving toward your standing leg as your lifted leg rises. If it’s within reach, use one or both of hands to grasp the ankle of your right leg.
- Hold for up to 60 seconds before lowering the left leg. Come into Warrior II on the other side and repeat Standing Splits with opposite legs.
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- Adho Mukha Svanasana
- Janu Sirsasana
- Prasarita Padottanasana
- Supta Padangusthasana
- Salamba Bhujangasana
- Urdhva = upward
- Prasarita = wide stance
- Eka = one
- Pada = foot
- Asana = pose
- Strengthens lower body
- Lengthens leg muscles, specifically calves and hamstrings
- Creates stability in pelvis and hips
- Opens hip flexors
- Stimulates liver and kidneys
- Promotes balance and patience
- Calms the brain
“Om Bija Mantra”
“The bija Om represents everything — the beginning, middle and end; the past, present and future. Om contains all the sounds of humanity, nature, and machinery; it is the hum of the earth.” Chanting Om cultivates balance and patience.
MUDRA: Apana Mudra
To remind yourself of the importance of rooting down in your standing leg, practice Apana Mudra, which enhances the downward flow of energy as well as calmness and ease. Bring the tips of your middle and ring finger to your thumb. Straighten and extend your pinky and index fingers up.
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