Ask anyone who’s been practicing yoga with some regularity for a couple months and they’ll have a Pose Story. It’s a story of how that one post they used to HATE that, somehow, some weirdly magical way, they slowly started to love.
Today’s Pose Story is about Standing Split (or Standing Leg Split).
I used to LOATHE this pose, to the point where, when it was included in a class, I’d skip it all together and either forward fold or drop to child’s pose. Standing Split made my feet, legs, knees and back hurt. I never quite understood the construction of the pose and I saw zero point to it, since I felt I was getting better, more effective stretches via other poses.
Looking back, the day I started to love this pose was when a teacher cued us to bring our flying knee into nose, square our hips, and then reach back through the ball of the flying foot.
“BINGO!” my body said.
“OHHOLYMOTHEROF@#&*^!*%@$(!” said my hamstrings.
Ever since that day, when the alignment and the WHERE finally kicked in, Standing Split and I have gotten along pretty well. It’s a relationship of constant refinement. Lately I’ve been focused on drawing my knee cap up and lifting from the inner arch of the standing foot. This helps stabilize my knee and hip joint in ways that I can only describe as blissful.
I don’t get my flying leg very high. Most days it’s straight out behind me. I can feel the stretch and I can feel the strengthening, and that’s good enough for me. (I also still give the hairy eyeball to Yoga Journal and their photo of a freakishly elastic woman.)
I’ve been incorporating this pose a lot more into teaching, too. This was recently inspired by an amazing post-run yoga class taught by the awesome Goldie Kaufenberg. If you’re in the Boston area, look her up. She’s wicked fun!
If Standing Split is one of those poses you HATE, keep trying. It’s ok to hang in rag doll some of the time, but maybe just give it a try. You might find something there.
…. I’m still waiting for utkatasana to be less horrid.