Everywhere I go, it seems, I am asked to demonstrate and teach my series for deepening front splits. I use many different strategies for deepening leg flexibility for front splits, but, the framework for the techniques I adhere to are consistent.
Splits have a specific and predictable effect on your pelvis and spine. My splits modifications are directed toward creating more clarity in creating a neutral core. It's about stabilizing your back and hips to move deeper into the desired sensations of each pose, which results in deeper and more well rounded leg flexibility.
For most people, it will be necessary to prepare for splits by dividing the focus. Emphasize the front leg stretch separate from the back leg before you put it all together.
Try the following stretches on your own!
Wall Stretches for Split Prep
Kneeling Hamstring Fold AKA Twist and Fold: Start Kneeling on your mat, facing a wall. Reach one leg forward, extend through your knee and wedge your heel into the corner. Take your hands to the wall and twist your pelvis slightly in the direction of your front leg. Extend your spine up and forward. Reach the top of your head for the wall.
Kneeling Hip Flexor/ Quad Stretch: Start on your hands and knees, face away from the wall. Reach one knee backward, taking your shin up the wall. If you're quite tight in the front of your hip and thigh, leave a little bit of space between your knee and the wall. Take the other leg forward, stepping just outside your hands. Keep your hands down and turn your pelvis gently toward the forward leg. Then, engage your low belly and turn your back leg in slightly. From here, lift your chest upright and draw your ribs back over your waist. Be sure to take deep, easy breaths.
Splitting your legs apart will tend to pull your pelvis toward your back leg. So in order to "square your hips" you must balance the stretch occurring in your legs with the stability required to keep your pelvis in alignment. It is important for both safety and aesthetic to stay engaged! Strong splits are the most beautiful! It takes consistent and deliberate effort and mindfulness to be able to "square your hips".
Try this order of operations for squaring your hips.
1. Turn your hips toward your front leg until your hips face forward. (This will definitely pull you up a bit. Don't fight it, this is inevitable.)
2. Slightly externally rotate your front leg. Slightly internally rotate your back leg.
3. Tuck your pelvis under a bit by drawing low belly in and frontal hips points toward center.
4. Engage around the front of your rib cage and narrow the widest points to bring your ribs slightly back to line up over your sit bones.
If you're close to full front splits, try this series! Hold each phase of the split for 5-8 breaths. Keep revisiting your endeavor to feel the lengthening sensations throughout. Sometimes in our desire to get deep into the front splits, we get stuck in misalignments. So don't be afraid to move out of the stretch and realign your hips and spine and then work for deeper. Patience and consistence are your best friends here.
2. Twisting Splits for 'Square Hips'
Twist forward: Start with your right leg forward. Lift your chest up and begin turning your hips to the right. Reach your right forearm to the floor, use block to prop up your forearm if needed. Take your right hand to the inside of your right foot and dorsiflex your right ankle. Use this connection between your foot and hand to draw your shoulder blades down and to turn your hips even more toward the right. Engage your right quadricep. Stay for 5-8 deep breaths. It should feel as if your spine is getting longer as you fold forward, try not to compress your low spine especially.
Twist backward: Bring your chest upright in your right leg split. Turn your hips, ribs, shoulders and head to the right and lean slightly on the left hand. Bend your back leg and catch the inside your foot with your right hand, thumb pointing up. Pull your heel toward your glutes. Continue turning hips to the right, and engage your ribs to bring them over your waist. This should stabilize your back and draw the stretch deeper into your hip flexors and thigh on the back leg.