Hanumanasana, or ‘The Splits’ as we used to call it in gymnastics, is one of those poses where mastering yourself is central to truly embodying the asana’s empowering qualities. From the perspective of someone who wanted to be a cheerleader, hanumanasana can be a long fought battle with the ego of self-judgement. From the perspective of a person who easefully moves fully into the asana, it can provoke the other extreme of the ego, self-pride. For all yogis, hanumanasana is a pose that requires a mindful attention to the nuances of physical sensations in the hamstrings + quadriceps (the complementary muscle groups on the back + front of the thighs) and to the nuances of your mindstate.
If you have ever had a hamstring injury, as I have, you will understand the long process of recovery. That being said, if you do have an injury, be it recent or seasoned, hanumanasana is a pose that could be an asana to observe on others or to practice with great restraint. Hanumanasana is a pose that provides fertile ground in which to study the qualities of grasping and aversion, their root causes and their affects on whether you are doing the asana with safe integrity.
Here are some suggestions for prepping the body well to move into hanumanasana with some interesting approaches and variations. In all cases, you want to move with attention on the areas of greatest stress but also be mindfully aware of the peripheral presence of the ego and motivations for the way you are moving into the pose.
As in all asana practices, you want to plan a strategy for preparing the body for where you want to go….in this case, hanumanasana. Any warm ups that focus on the hips joints, on the fronts + backs of the thighs and on regulating the breath + focus will serve you well.
Sun salutations (surya namaskar) with low lung, anjenayasana, and high lung will begin to open and warm the front + back dimensions of the body. Sprinkling into sun salutations half-splits (ardha hanumanasana) and any quad/hip flexor stretch will be useful in letting the body know where you are headed. Standing split, lord of the dance(natarajasana) and a sort of skewed version of hanumanasana (leg to the side diagonal rather then directly in front) are also great places to begin to deepen the opening of the targeted areas even more.
Blocks are of great assistance in supporting the full pose and in helping you come into a version where the reach of the arms upwards creates a sense of lightness and confidence even if you cannot completely come all the way down into the mat with the groins.
Some interesting variations might be to try the standing split at the wall, natarajasana into a classic standing split or into a handstand with hanumanasana legs.....a great place to explore balance in your handstand.
Whatever version you engage, have fun while your awareness is ensuring that you are at an appropriate place.
Always consult your doctor to ensure any yoga sequence, including this one, are appropriate for you and that you have no contraindications.