With the right stretches, you can prepare your muscles and ease your body into a pain-free side split.
Side splits might look and feel painful, but that doesn’t always have to be the case. They make for a nice Instagram picture, plus they’re also a relaxing pose once you know how to safely set yourself up for it. Side splits help to open your hips and lower body, relieving you of any tension you’ve had after a long day of sitting or standing.
Doing the following exercises regularly will prime your muscles for an easy side split.
(Also read: 9 Hip Opening Yoga Poses You Should Be Doing)
This helps to relax your pelvic area as you don’t often sink your hips so low. By pushing your knees away from your body using your elbows, you will also stretch your inner thighs.
Stand slightly wider than hip-width. Turn your feet 45-degrees outwards. Bend your knees and go into a squat. Sink as deep as you can while keeping your body upright. Avoid sinking deeper if it causes you to lean forward too much. Place your palms in prayer position in front of your chest. Place both elbows on your knees and slowly push your knees away from your body. Hold for 30 seconds to a minute.
Scale up: Push your knees farther away until only your fingertips touch. If you want to work your legs, move your elbows away from your knees completely and use your leg muscles to hold the pose.
Low side lunge
Relaxed inner thighs and hip flexors will release any tension and pain in a side split. The low side lunge helps to open up those areas, and isn’t too painful a stretch to do.
Stand straight and take a big step to the side with your right foot. Bend your right knee and sink your body down to squat at the right. Turn your left foot to the side and flex your toes. Make sure your bent knee doesn’t go beyond your toes. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on other side.
Scale up: To work your mobility, shift from side to side instead of holding the pose.
Hamstrings and hip flexors play a big part in achieving side splits, though you may think those muscles are more essential for front splits.
Start in plank pose. Bring your right foot to the outside of your right palm. Pulse to release tension. Hold for 30 seconds to a minute. Repeat on other side.
Scale up: If you have flexible hips and hamstrings, lower your forearms to the ground for a deeper stretch.
External and internal leg circles
This is more of a movement than a stretch, but doing leg circles in both directions will help to open up your hip flexors. It will help you go deeper in a side split without feeling pain or discomfort in your hip joints.
Lie on your back and lift your right leg up. Place your hands beside your body, palms facing down for support. Engage your core and keep your lower back on the ground. Point your toes and make large circles with your leg 10 times in both directions. Repeat on other side.
(Also read: 7 Easy Stretches You Must Do Every Morning)
Sometimes, the frog pose is seen as an alternative to a deeper side split. While they target similar muscles, they aren’t exactly the same.
Do a side split to your best ability and lean forward. Using your arms and elbows to support yourself, bend your knees so they are at a 90-degree angle. Try to sink your hips to the floor without arching your back too much.
Scale up: Try to keep your hips and knees in one straight line if you’re flexible enough. Stretch deeper by reaching your arms forward or lowering your body to the floor.